Can we try it again?

Last week we had a great dialogue on the topic of gay youth, the Boy Scouts of America.and a new alternative called Trail Life USA. The ground rules were simple -

“Let’s see if we can keep this respectable and God-honoring. Remember, the eternities of students are on the line.”

The goal here isn’t a debate on homosexuality, but on what it means to be a youth worker in the trenches of this ongoing topic. Whether or not you have a student in your ministry who is actively walking in this tension, your teens likely know someone who is.

On that note, I’d like to share a link my friend Darren Sutton passed along. His comments under the headline were “Wow. Courageous and unexpected.”

My curiosity peaked immediately.

2012-09_LT-GayCatholicFine1

Especially when I saw the headline: Gay, Catholic and Doing Fine.”

You really need to read the whole article, although I will offer two quotes here:

I have heard a lot about how mean the Church is, and how bigoted, because she opposes gay marriage. How badly she misunderstands gay people, and how hostile she is towards us. My gut reaction to such things is: Are you freaking kidding me? Are we even talking about the same Church?

Actually, the only time I get shock or disgust or disbelief, the only time I’ve noticed people treating me differently after I tell them, is when I tell someone who supports the gay lifestyle. Celibacy?! You must be some kind of freak.

I’d like to again raise some questions in the vibe of what I did last week. For example:

  • How do you feel about this young man taking the approach of celibacy for the sake of his walk with God? In his words: “So, yes, it’s hard to be gay and Catholic — it’s hard to be anything and Catholic — because I don’t always get to do what I want. Show me a religion where you always get to do what you want and I’ll show you a pretty shabby, lazy religion. Something not worth living or dying for, or even getting up in the morning for. That might be the kind of world John Lennon wanted, but John Lennon was kind of an idiot.”
  • Is it healthy to loop “Catholic” and “gay” together? Hear me out on this – I don’t want this to become a word study of 1 Corinthians 6:9, but perhaps we do need to nod to 1 Corinthians 6:11 as we consider the implications for youth ministry. That verse comes after a number of things the Bible lists as sins, adding (emphasis mine), “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”So if your church or denomination takes a stance on something, might it confuse youth to say, “You can be a ___________ and a (Catholic/Methodist/Baptist/etc).” Is that one step away from “You can be a ____________ and a Christ-follower?” Should the target instead be, “Receive Christ. Embrace your new identity and Story. Your sin nature no longer has reign over you, and the Holy Spirit will help you face the temptations for sins that will still swarm in on you.”
  • Honesty time – how much of your first reaction to those last two questions was filtered through your personal view on this topic versus your willingness to walk into the grace and holiness of God? No, really… how much? Is it possible more people know your personal platform on this topic more than they do your walk with the Lord? Maybe we need to take a cue from the person who wrote the blog.

Quick tip – before you hit reply, sift through that last question a bit and remember the ground rules for our discussion here. This isn’t a post about homosexuality, but about how we minister to where students may fall on this as they process it all. Try to share Jesus and not your platform. Thanks!

talking

I once remember a friend of mine asking, “If you set up your youth group that way, what will make students have a desire to invite their friends?”  He was speaking of the fact that the focus on our ministry was to be “relationally driven.”  Sure we all talk about “discipleship” and “relationships,” however,  I started to see I did just that.  I talked about them, but I didn’t really have them. I played games for the sake of fun.  I sang worship songs because that’s  “what you do.”  The trouble was I’m not musical, and I didn’t have any students or volunteers who were either. I followed all the unwritten rules of the youth group formula.  They weren’t working for me or my students.

I stepped back and looked at Christ’s model.  He preached to the crowds, touched and healed a few, but the majority of His time was spent pouring into 12 guys, with 3 getting special attention.  If Jesus was focused on eating, sleeping and teaching mainly 12 with a focus on 3,  then that was the model I would follow.

Here’s what I did:

1.  Listened

I started with brainstorming with my students about what they were looking for in “youth group.”  Some of them liked to sing, others hated it.  What they wanted was a place to seek truth, with authentic people who would become a second family to them.

2.  Restructured

Before I programmed ANYTHING I asked,  “How will this build relationships?”  So just to move to a small group model for the sake of having them wasn’t going to work. Instead of getting through a series of questions or pushing through a curriculum, the goal was to include every student in every conversation.  What were the students able to take away with them? Could they apply at least one point the moment they walked out the door? Our opening time became much shorter.  If we did play a game, or have an object lesson, it was all about building relationships with each other or for the purpose of making a point that would be discussed in small groups.

3.  Training

Many volunteers would ask me, “What do I have in common with this age?”  So I started training my team in first steps to conversations,  how to engage, how to not talk “at students” but with them, and how to deal with disruptions. These trainings are ongoing. I gave clear expectations of where we were headed, and what they needed to do to keep up with students. There were checklists for calling, texting and spending time with students not just during “youth group.”

4. Included

One of the key elements was including volunteers and teens in our new model.  We decided that an opening time of welcoming was needed. We allowed teens (with guidance) to plan and execute this time. In a practical sense this means that this time changes year to year as we have different students and adults in the mix.  There have been dramas, worship, and video clips in that time to bring the message. The students are allowed to make this time theirs.

So I lied we do play games, but not every week. Students always shock me when they do use the word “fun” to describe our time together.  I guess it’s because we laugh, and talk and go deep, but it’s not usually silly programming.  Our method draws out the introverts and lets everyone engage.  Yes, we even eat pizza together, take trips, and have outreach events however, all of this is done with that simple question, “If we do this , how will it build relationships?” AND THEY DO INVITE THEIR FRIENDS,,,

What about you?  What are YOU doing to build relationships with your students?

 

 



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!

On the heels of my Christian Pick-Up Lines post on Tuesday, here are some fun thoughts on how to tell someone you’re not interested:

christianpickuplinesYou’ve probably seen or heard a few of your own. After all, there’s only so much you can say when a person says, “You must be a Christian. I’ve ‘Adonai’ on you all night.”

Feel free to share some of your best “moves” to counter a “move” below.



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.

Christian Pick-Up Lines

 —  August 5, 2013 — 17 Comments

Back in my single days, I certainly had my share of cheesy pick-up lines. They ranged from flattering things I heard in songs (“Heaven must be missing an angel  ’cause you’re here with me right now.”) to quick blurbs inspired by the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (“Girl, if you was gravy I would sop you up with a biscuit!”)

(I didn’t say they actually worked.)

christianpickuplinesI’m sure you’ve noticed that being a Christian creates its own subculture of references and “isms.” I wonder if you’ve ever heard or said something as ridiculous as this when hormones meet the holy:

    • “I read the Bible daily. My favorite book is Numbers. Speaking of numbers, can I have yours?”
    • “My spiritual gifts are prophecy and discernment, which means I have a double-revelation that God wants us together.”
    • “Would you like to get into the Word with me? Great. This is my car, and I call it ‘Word’ Where to?”
    • “My multiple e-Bibles take up 85% of my iPod memory. I’ll let some love songs about you have the other 15%.”
    • “Girl/Boy, you are so unblemished that I would sacrifice you.”
    • “You make me want to be a better tither.”
    • “I’m here on a mission trip. But if we can’t be together, I’ll be mission you.”
    • “I’m praying for you. Not just for you, but ***FOR*** you.”
    • “As Christians, shouldn’t we honor all Scripture? Let’s start with 2 Corinthians 13:12
    • “You must be a Bible verse, because I can’t stop memorizing you.”
    • “You… complete me. That is, after Jesus completes me. You’re like the gluten in my communion bread.”
    • “How about we go back to my place? My accountability partner is there.”
    • I’d marry Leah if it meant I’d also get to marry you.”
    • “God told me I can break my fast for you.”
    • “For you, I’d start saying ‘Oh My Gosh’.”
    • “What do you say you and I take up a love offering?”
    • “I’m just curious… what’s your Promise Ring size?”
    • “Wouldn’t it be sad if our clothes weren’t next to each other’s in the rapture?”
    • “Your name must be Milk or Honey… ‘cuz you feel like something I was promised.”
    • “You and I are loaves and fish. Just imagine if we came together and gave ourselves to Jesus.”
    • “Hey, look! Matching Bible covers!”
    • “How about you and I go light a candle together?”
    • “What God thinks about me is infinitely more important than what others think about me. So, what do you think of me?”
    • “Don’t walk away, babe. You may not think I’m perfect but Jesus thinks I’m to die for.”


    Got any to add?

    Share yours below.

    UPDATE: Read Part 2 here



This is just pure fun, from beginning to end.

Then again, maybe this represents relationships, church life and more?

Your pick.

Watch it a few times and picture yourself as each of the three characters. Show it to students and ask them to do the same thing.

Perhaps we say we’re always being kicked, not realizing we also do our fair share of kicking or setting it up to happen.

Enjoy!

 

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)