shoutI recently spent some time with the band Everyday Sunday after they led a worship concert at our weekend services. They had a few words of encouragement to share with you, so (if you’ll pardon the simple camera phone capture of their words) here’s a shout-out for you from the guys in the band:

Thanks for serving!

Remember, it’s all about relationships.

- Tony / @tonymyles

Appearances aren’t everything.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely the “go-to” person for youth ministry in your church. Maybe I’m wrong, but play along with me for a moment.

Now let’s take a quick rabbit trail.

I was looking for an image recently using the keyword “expert.”

Google is normally my friend for this, but in this particular instance I came up short.

expert

Google Images essentially told me that in all of the Internet’s pages, there was no picture that matched this word.

First off, that’s never, ever happened to me before.

Secondly, I found it completely satirical that this was the word Google said couldn’t be matched to anything that represented it.

I thought it might’ve been a fluke, so I typed in searches using other words. They all showed up, but again and again for more than 20 minutes, I couldn’t get an image for the word “expert.”

That all changed when I tried it again an hour later. But for a brief moment in time, there was no “expert” to be found.

Now… how does that relate to you?

expert2Should you have the appearance of being the expert on youth ministry (or whatever your area of responsibility) is in your church?

Or, should you help someone else become the expert on youth ministry (or whatever your area of responsibility is) in your church?

For that matter, should anyone be an expert… or should we all be learners?

Well, what do you know?

Any thoughts?

 



mapofcuba
CubanGirlYou’ve probably heard in recent news that restrictions are loosening on American travel to Cuba. It’s an important historical step in our decades long relationship with our neighbor to the south. What you may not know is that religious organizations have been free to travel there for years under a general license. If you’ve always been intrigued and curious about the island nation of Cuba, there’s never been a better time to visit. Here are 10 great reasons to take your group to serve in Cuba:

1. They’re our close neighbors.

The island nation of Cuba is only 90 miles south of the southern tip of Florida. It’s just a simple 45 minute flight from Miami and you touch down in the beautiful, historical city of Havana.

2. You can be the change you want to see in the world.

Relations between Cuba and the U.S. have been terribly strained over the last 50 years.  You can begin to change things, one relationship at a time.

3. The people are warm and welcoming.

The Cuban people are some of the friendliest in the world. Serving in Jesus’ name makes that connection even stronger, as you interact with folks who have a vibrant hope in Jesus, in spite of difficult circumstances.

CubanMusic4. The culture is unlike anything you’ve probably experienced before.

It goes without saying that Cuba is different. One of our ministry partners is a neurosurgeon by trade. He is as highly trained and educated to the same level as someone from the States. His salary was the equivalent of $23 per month. He couldn’t afford the gas to get to and from his job as a surgeon, so he quit to pursue as many side jobs as he can to provide for his family. These are the types of folks you’ll meet as you interact with this unique culture.

5. The Church is growing, despite obstacles. 

Cubans are not permitted to build a church building, but they can have house churches. As the church grows, and pastors are raised up, the number of house churches increases on the island. You’ll meet people who have such a genuine hope in Jesus, and you’ll see how the church has grown despite efforts to the contrary.

6. It’s a beautiful, amazing place.

Cuban culture continues to shine through. Beautiful music, beaches, food and people make it easy to see why Cuba has been an extremely popular travel destination for people from outside the United States. You can’t help but be immersed in the beauty and wonder of Cuba while you’re there.

7. Because you can. 

 Lifetree Adventures has been bringing groups to Cuba over the last 5 years, and now with restrictions lifted, it’s easier than ever. You will start to see agencies popping up all over the place, trying to take advantage of these changes. Lifetree Adventures has taken the time to develop a strong network in Cuba, so that you and your group can travel there to serve as economically as possible. We’ve taken all the stress out of visas, immigration, charter flights, and the other peculiar details of traveling to Cuba. We’d love to have you along as we seek to support and bless the local churches in Cuba. 

8. You have a lot to give.Yardwork

Your perspective, your heart, your faith. These are all things that you can bring to the people of Cuba. They need help with ministry projects, such as working with kids with disabilities in a local community. You might paint a house church, help with a construction project, or play with kids with special needs. There’s work to do, but there is also relational time and encouragement to be had.

9. You have a lot to receive.

You’ll be amazed at the passion and fervor that the people of Cuba have for God. They have nothing in terms of material possessions, but they serve Him with all they have. Your faith will be WomenandNecklaces
energized, and you’ll come away with a new perspective on your life.

10. You can support and encourage the local ministries.

We are closely connected with many different local church pastors and ministries. They are bolstered and encouraged by our presence, our heart to give, and our resources. Our relationship there gives them a much needed lift to help them continue the hard work of doing ministry as Cubans.

As it becomes easier to travel to Cuba, many Americans will go to “take” and consume. You have an opportunity to give and make a difference. Come by yourself, bring your family, or bring a group. Lifetree Adventures and our expert team of locals in Cuba will make your trip to Cuba smooth, fun, and most-of-all, meaningful. We’d love to have you along on a mission adventure of a lifetime!  For more information go to www.lifetreeadventures.com.

Headshot Jobe 5031

Looking forward to serving with you in 2015,

- Jobe Lewis

Director of Lifetree Adventures

Think Ahead

 —  December 12, 2014 — Leave a comment

Some well-intentioned things can backfire if you don’t think ahead.

Bad-Family-Christmas-Grandma

With Christmas coming up, it’s possible that you may be winding down your ministry plans. What I’m about to propose to you may seem absurd, but I’ll offer it anyway.

Be intentionally busy, just a few minutes longer.

Think ahead and have a plan before Christmas for your spring and summer ministry.

It’s common for people to check out a church during the holiday season. You may be meeting parents and teenagers who need something tangible to look at and explore to give them a better sense of your youth ministry. Here are three quick tips:

  • Have a 2-month calendar on paper: Be ready to hand this out to anyone you talk with. Better yet, create a team of students whose ministry it is to do this during weekend services.
  • Make sure there is one big event coming up in January: Highlight it on the calendar, whether you end up doing an all-nighter at your building or a local serving opportunity.
  • Ask a question on the backside of your calendar related to some larger serving experiences you’re considering: Link it to your webpage via a web address and a QR code, and on that page ask them what type of serving experience they would be most excited about taking part in. Here are some of my favorites:
    • DSCN3560Group Workcamps: A 6-day, high-energy mission trip of up to 400 participants. Join other youth groups to repair sagging porches, rebuild unsafe steps and wheelchair ramps, and paint homes. No special skills needed…just a willing heart!
    • Week of Hope: A 5-day trip of up to 100 participants. Campers are challenged to live as Jesus did while serving the needs of people through local ministries and non-profit organizations. You’ll serve meals to the homeless, work with disabled children, share stories with an elderly person, and more.
    • Lifetree Adventures: An international mission trip that makes it easy to serve abroad. Send your youth on a trip to Haiti, Peru or Puerto Rico and get back teenagers who are more confident, more compassionate, and more appreciative of the advantages they enjoy.

Got any other favorite tips or trips to add to the list?

 



It’s just two words long.

“Spreading ideas.”

ted-logoThat’s the new mission statement for TED, a unique organization known for its thought-instilling conferences and powerful, mini-presentations on Technology, Entertainment and Design. The company’s former mission statement was “Ideas worth spreading.”

Still, TED does have a more comprehensive understanding of what that means.

“TED conferences bring together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).

Do you know what your mission statement is?

Do others around you?

Can you say it out loud? Can they?

Thom Schultz has chronicled on his blog more than once about the importance of a mission statement in relationship to a church’s sense of purpose. The documentary When God Left The Building has a telling moment about how a struggling church might need to pay attention to its own verbiage (or lack thereof):

mission-statementI’ve worked hard over the years at clarifying and designing vision/mission statements within churches and ministries I’ve been in. My initial drive was to say everything in a sentence that seemed to go on forever. I later took some advice from Peter Drucker who pointed out that if it can’t fit onto a t-shirt, it’s too long. The wave of today is “the shorter the better,” as long as it doesn’t overgeneralize nor pigeonhole the initiative.

Here are some notable companies and their spin on a mission statement:

  • Smithsonian: The increase and diffusion of knowledge. (6 words)
  • USO lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families. (9 words)
  • Livestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer. (8)
  • Invisible Children: To bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities. (8)
  • The Humane Society: Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty. (4)
  • Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors. (6)
  • Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice. (10)
  • Best Friends Animal Society: A better world through kindness to animals. (7)
  • CARE: To serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. (12)
  • The Nature Conservancy: To conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. (11)
  • JDRF: To find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. (14)
  • Environmental Defense Fund: To preserve the natural systems on which all life depends. (10)
  • Public Broadcasting System (PBS): To create content that educates, informs and inspires. (8)
  • National Wildlife Federation: Inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future. (9)

What does this mean for you?

go-4_wide_t-1024x576In my opinion, all churches share the same biblical mission… so your mission statement should reflect the biblical values in Scripture. I classify a vision statement as how it uniquely plays out in your context… “This is how us living out the mission will look for us.”

Maybe none of this matters, or maybe it does. My suggestion is take your church’s primary statement and add the word “students” to it. For example, “We will reach the lost and broken in our area for Jesus” could become “We will reach the lost and broken students in our area for Jesus.”

That said, what are you trying to communicate? Do you believe it should be shorter than 20 words? 15? 10?

If you can’t, might a tagline sum it up?

The end goal of crafting a better mission statement isn’t to be clever… but to clarify what it means to follow Jesus so that others might join you in serving Him.

Thoughts?

What is your church’s mission or vision statement? How do you or others feel about it?

Fill It Up?

 —  November 13, 2014 — 2 Comments

10475979-largeA minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Pastor,” said the young man, “I’m so sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

I’m not sure who the original author of this piece is. I came across it in a compilation of funny illustrations that someone in my church passed along to me, but this one stood out to me in particular.

On one hand, it’s easy to see why you might want to share this as a teaching illustration. It certainly does paint a picture of how many people view God and faith. He certainly does seem to get the last burst of many people’s time.

prayingOn the other hand, might there be an inverse message for you and I? Specifically, people like us who are so busy doing the work of God that we aren’t letting Him adequately work in us?

  • “I probably should start my day out in prayer, but let me just check (the news/email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/texts) first.”
  • “I’m really feeling spiritually dry, so maybe after I work on this lesson for everyone else I’ll spend some quality time with God.”
  • “Sure, Bob. I’ll pray for you.”

    (days go by, you see that person again)

    (to God, as the person is walking up)

    “Dear God, I pray for Bob. Amen.”

    (to Bob)

    “Hey Bob! I’ve been praying for you!”

Can you relate?

Any wisdom on how instead of running on fumes as we serve we might all more regularly say to God, “Fill it up?”



 

177227729

Recently I was in a meeting of the youth ministry minds where this question was asked:

“How often does your group, your youth or your church think of missions?”

The answers ranged from weekly to monthly to an honest, “never.” It was a great question that I felt was poised around “opportunities” to “go and serve” both locally and abroad. In short it was really asking how often we “went” somewhere to think of the people outside the doors of the church. I believe this is an important question and I was humbled at how much others are doing to inspire students to “Go, make disciples.”

Later that week I was taking a flight with my husband. It was on one of “those” airlines where you do not get to pick your seats ahead of time. Instead you line up in a lump by “zone” and hope for the best (unless of course you want to pay the extra to get first pick.) My hubby and I ended up in the final zone, making me really grumpy that we would probably be separated for a four hour flight. Although we ended up towards the back thankfully we were together.

Until…

Now what I didn’t tell you is that I really hate to fly. It makes me nervous on a good day. Yet this time I especially had a knot in my stomach since my flight the week prior had literally bounced through the sky for hours until I reached the safety of the ground.

The “glitch” in this system of picking your seat was that families sometimes get separated.  It happened on this flight; a Dad and young child needed a seat that was not separated.  The voice on the intercom was asking if two people would move so they could be together.  The attendant made jokes about, “babysitting the child next to you” if no one would move.

No one budged.

Again the plead was made, explaining that the only empty seats available were two middle ones in exit rows. A small child is not allowed there. I looked at my husband and asked him if, “It was the right thing to do to give up our seats.” We waited for someone else to step up. I didn’t happen.

Did I mention this flight was at night and I hate, really hate to fly in the dark?

An offer to buy those that moved alcohol was made. I don’t drink.

One more time with desperation, the attendant called, “We can’t move the plane until this Dad and child can sit together.” It had moved from an inquiry to a demand.  Still none of us jumped up.

We looked at each other. Sighed. Gave up our seats. I got to sit in the middle of two people who had brought on food that stank to high heaven, were unfriendly, drank “Bloody Mary’s” the whole way and the flight was bumpy.  It wasn’t pleasant.

I did not want to give up my seat next to my husband. I did not want to have to sit where I did. I wanted my way. Obviously so did everyone else on the plane. Yet, we knew the “right thing” was to let the Dad and child be together.  We wouldn’t want our little one to be stuck next to a stranger just so we could be in a window or an aisle. While I lost four hours of conversation with my hubby there are worse things.

I wonder if thinking about “missions” is far simpler than we realize.

I got “nothing” out of moving. I asked if I could exchange the offer for alcohol for free wifi and the answer was, “I wish I could do that for you.”

There are so many lessons in my little interaction about the reality of “missions:”

  • Sometimes you serve because it’s right, not because you want to.
  • The “blessing” of serving is not always immediate in getting to “see” a “finished product.”
  • Service could be about going out of your way. When I had asked if I could ensure a seat next to my husband in the first place I was simply chided for not paying the money to get one early.  I was offered 3 $5- $7 drinks but no one could float me a code for $8 internet. What about a policy so that children always sit with parents?

I am not the picture of perfection here. I didn’t want to be the person who moved, I just did. I should have been the first person willing to go, and I am sad to say I wasn’t.

Trips are worth it. Yes, put them on your calendar. Use them as a catalyst to get your students thinking beyond themselves. Then teach them to give up their seats. The big events only work when we learn how to use them in the day to day.

-Leneita

@leneitafix

Speaking of trips :) Group Workcamps and LifeTree Adventures offer some amazing options you should check them out!

Do you know your role?

720001Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been in the news this week. We can all empathize with how difficult it must be for them to sort out ordinary events in the public eye. While this young couple navigates the exciting news of their pregnancy with the hurdle of acute morning sickness (attributed to hyperemesis gravidarum), the rest of the world takes it all in, wondering in the background if and when William will be named the next King of England.

Can you relate?

Years ago, I was a youth worker in a church where our senior pastor was resigning. Suddenly I felt like my life was on display just a bit more than usual as people began wondering if I (or other staff members) would take on the soon-to-be-vacant role. I started attending board meetings a bit more, as I was invited to share my perspective on various things happening. I had to wrestle with the desires of God over the desires of people, including my own.

Can you relate?

Today I was reminded of this older photo of Prince William and Kate (fresh off their honeymoon) visiting with President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Which person in the picture are you?

prince-william-kate-middleton-relationship-photos-obamas

Did you decide?

What do you think Barack and William are talking over?

What are Michelle and Kate chatting about?

Oh… and did you notice the gentleman in the background toward the right?

Look at his face. What is he attentive to?

Look at his posture. What is he ready to do?

Was he one of the choices you considered?

Why?

Why not?

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)