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)

I’ve been feeling something for a while now.

Maybe you have, too.

It’s something I’ve even “prayed” about… like how Christians say they pray about things, but really just conclude something they hope God’s okay with.

closedpulpitI plan to leave my church.

I’ll stand in front of my congregation and say,

“I’m going to attend elsewhere. Things don’t feel like they used to. There’s another congregation that seems more put-together and exciting. They even somehow seem more ‘biblical’ over there, too. You guys just aren’t feeding me anymore.”

Such a plan only lasts for a nano-second.

(Translation: I’m not actually planning on leaving my church. I’m confessing a temptation I feel every now and then… maybe you have, too.)

I’m supposed to be mature.

I need to think bigger than that. You need to think bigger than that.

We need to think bigger than that.

As a lead pastor, I do get emails from people who do this almost every season. It’s like the changing weather makes people change their church.

Thankfully, there always seems to be a remnant through God’s grace – a core group who understands things at a healthier level. These are the “for better or for worse” servant-leaders who get it and push through spiritual walls for the sake of what God is doing in them and through them.

The problem is on a general, church-wide scale it feels like when people aren’t “feeling it” they’re eventually gone:

  • “The worship team doesn’t play the songs I like.”
  • “I purposefully didn’t come for weeks as a test. No one from the church called me. Never mind that I’m not in a small group… the point is…”
  • “The building campaign should be run this way…. instead of that way.”
  • “I showed up for an event and it wasn’t what I expected.”
  • “It’s not how it was when I first started attending.”
  • “I’m just not feeling fed.”

It’s the last one that grinds me the most… not because I believe I’m a great preacher, but if God’s Word is the foundation of a message the only reason people couldn’t feel “fed” is if they closed their “mouths.” According to Jesus, God’s seed is good – it’s the soil that has the problem. Maybe it’s just easier to blame a preacher or church than personally own that.

Why am I posting this here?

There’s a reason why your senior pastor seems worn down some daysit’s because your senior pastor is worn down some days.

Senior pastors often feel like plate spinners who are trying to keep things healthy so people stay happy. It’s not our job, but it somehow becomes our job. It ultimately makes us want to work somewhere where people demonstrate long-term commitment and patronage… like their favorite ice cream store. (Sadly, that comparison is truer than we’d like to admit.)

Right now, go reaffirm a “for better or for worse” commitment to your church and its senior leadership. While you’re at it, dare others to do the same.

Feed up… before he or she gets fed up.

What are some of the “reasons” you’ve heard someone left a church? Share a comment. (Maybe by confessing some of the insanity we’ll better recognize it before it comes out of us.)