Some days, ministry has a weight to it that can overwhelm you.

Perhaps this is an odd metaphor, but when God gives me a heavy message to share or significant task to do I feel like I’m like a delivery man who is cautiously transporting nuclear energy. What’s in my hands will either fuel lives with power or poison them with radiation-all based on how I handle it…or if I somehow trip in the process.

This tension only increases when we work alongside people who seem on guard against God or church.

bdos_teamI’ve experienced that sensation while leading three different Big Day of Serving events in Ohio. There’s a sort of dangerous thrill that comes with working with people behind-the-scenes who may or may not know Jesus Christ…all while you set up some powerful service projects for students to serve Jesus Christ.

It all begins with the first cold call and continues into the relationship you form behind-the-scenes. You can usually tell how certain personalities or people will be easier to work with than others. It’s a hurdle common to church environments, youth groups, and more.

This is when we’re tempted to start telling stories of transformation.

Have you ever noticed how when we’re trying to convince someone that something is worth doing, we default to telling the positive stories of life change as a selling point? It’s just as tempting to avoid mentioning the details that didn’t turn out like we wanted them to.

What do you feel like telling your church when you or your ministry are being evaluated? Do you share how your efforts have failed, or at least one story that seems to make it all worthwhile?

bdos_akron2I learned something at the last Big Day of Serving that humbled me on this.

My team was blessed to work with the mayor’s office in Akron, Ohio. They did a phenomenal job of identifying projects we could sink our teeth into and make a huge difference in.

One of those projects came through the passionate suggestions of a local resident who has been a bit of a thorn in the side of the city for years. He often writes letters to the newspaper, criticizing how the city isn’t doing its job like it should.

I don’t know how you’d respond to such a critic, but my temptation would be to fire back some emails on all the things we’re doing right.

(Again, this would be the moment I’d want to amplify “stories of transformation” as a shield to help deflect the impact of what I was hearing.)

A city as large as Akron could do the same thing, telling a critic how “We’re doing what we can,” or “We’ll get around to that sometime in the next budget year.” Instead, the city invited this gentleman to take part in the Big Day of Serving with us as a project leader.

Instead of raising a shield, they let him use his sword to help cut through the problem.

dogI met the man and his three-legged dog (who, incidentally, isn’t named “Lucky”) as we walked around the week before to preview a particular park he wanted cleaned up. It was obvious that this was a guy full of passion who had much to share about how things just weren’t getting done according to his perspective. The City representative not only listened to him, but (while wearing his usual dress clothes) followed the critic into the muddy woods to see things first-hand.

The whole time this was happening, I again felt that tension of whether or not this was going to end up amazing or blow up in our faces. It was a risk putting this critic in charge of a site that we’d be sending youth workers and students to. It didn’t help my fears when he used some loose language that I imagined I’d later read about in the evaluation forms that our work teams fill out after the event.

On the other hand, this man was as much a part of the reason why we were doing the Big Day of Serving work projects themselves. Maybe his soul was the real thing that our students would be “working on.” Could you just imagine the type of passionate, “Peter-like” Christ-follower this man could be if God somehow got hold of his life?

Maybe I should tell you the rest of the story.

There is one, by the way.

Instead, I’m going to end right here for now and dare you to live in this dangerous, nuclear tension I’m outlining.

Thom and Joanie Shultz describe it in their book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore:

  • bdos_workDivine Expectation: Realize that God is actively involved in everything, all the time. He has something dangerously thrilling for you to share and carry into the lives of other people. If you aren’t experiencing some “fear and trembling” in your ministry, quit being such an expert and remember how powerful the One you serve actually is.
  • Fearless Conversation: Make the cold call. Say several bold things in a message. Let others use loose, random language around you without you amplifying or mirroring it. Ask great questions, and let those around you do the same.
  • Genuine Humility: Carry a notebook and write down what you hear, seeking evaluation instead of praise. Be radically relational, honoring how God may be speaking to you through a voice you don’t want to hear.
  • Radical Hospitality: Make everyone feel as important as the world-changer Jesus says they actually are. Seek to understand them through the lens of caring curiosity, and create an on-ramp for them not to just join you…but so that you can also join them.

Carry and deliver whatever wild burden God gives you… hobble forward if that’s the best you can do.

hopeWhich reminds me of one last thing…

the three-legged dog?

Its actual name is “Hope.”

- – - -

I’d love to hear what you’re experiencing or learning in whatever your situation is. Please chime in.

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!*

weekofhope-sandiego-ym-inline

westjetThis is a great video to show your students.

The Canadian airliner WestJet made some Christmas wishes come true. They asked passengers on a flight what they wanted for Christmas and then went out and got the gifts. When the flight landed, the surprised passengers were greeted with the wrapped presents.

Seriously awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIEIvi2MuEk#t=1

Show the video, then ask:

  • How did you “feel” after watching this? Why do you think you ended up feeling that way?
  • Who do you think had the most joy in this?
  • Who do you think had the most regrets in this?
  • In what ways was the value of serving present here?
  • How is this like or unlike what it means to tell God what’s on our hearts?



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

Top Model: Ministry Edition

Tony Myles —  September 16, 2013 — 6 Comments

Youth ministry is safe.

Before you reply back with a counter-thought that puts me in my place, hear me out.

Youth ministry is safe because it gives you a reason to not do what you’re asking students to do.

Role ModelEver notice how easy it is to spend all your time trying to get teenagers to take a bold step with God that you don’t actually take yourself? We say things like, “Share Jesus with your friends! Bring them with you to church!”

How often are you regularly doing those things with your own peers or neighbors?

Maybe you feel you’re too busy serving students that you don’t have time to sit in “big church.” Perhaps you feel so called to your niche that you don’t know where to start with other adults.

Students don’t need another pep talk from you on how to serve their generation. They need to watch you be an example in serving your generation.

Here are some ideas:

  • Print out a Google map of your neighborhood. Write down the names of the people in each home, and learn the names of those you haven’t yet met. Begin praying for everyone by name.
  • Install a basketball hoop so the neighborhood kids feel free to play on it. Use it as an excuse to meet their parents.
  • Instead of reading a book on the couch, head outside and read it outside. Be sure to say “Hi!” to those who walk by.
  • Crank up some familiar music when you’re working on a project outside. Music can help people feel you’re approachable.
  • Share chores with your neighbors, like helping them with a big project or asking them to help you with yours. Spring for lunch either way.
  • Set up a “grown up table” outside for things like Halloween when people will be walking around the neighborhood. Have bottled water and granola bars available for the adults.
  • Get a dog and walk around your neighborhood each day. It gives you the chance to linger without looking like a creeper. Just make sure you pick up your dog’s “deposits.”
  • Do thoughtful things for your neighbors, like mowing their lawn when they’re at work. (Just avoid trimming their hedges to look like a silhouette of Moses.)
  • If a neighbor has said, “If you need anything, just ask,” go ahead and ask. Sometimes you build a friendship by helping someone else feel needed.
  • If you’re not in a situation where you’re close with neighbors, such as apartments or homes that are far apart, organize a board game night in your home or a community room where you provide ice cream sandwiches and the games.

I think you get the picture. The point isn’t to regard your neighbors as a project so you can get them to church and say, “TA DA!” It’s about loving your neighbor as you love yourself so the Holy Spirit can use your example to change more than one generation.

You know this won’t be easy, and you probably have all your excuses lined up. Feel free to comment and share them so we can sort them out together.

I will say this with full confidence, though– this will be more fruitful than you think.

Teenagers aren’t just looking for a great youth worker… they’re looking for a Christ-follower who is leaving footsteps they can step into.

Thank you for loving students!

Tony

@tonymyles



I like it when people pick up the tab for my food.

A guy named Doug approached me years ago when I transitioned into a church as its youth pastor. He’d been a faithful student ministry volunteer and wanted to start a friendship with me. We connected at a nice restaurant where we swapped stories and yapped about youth work.

We eventually got onto the topic of missions, and I learned that Doug had a heart for Alaska. He’d traveled there earlier that summer so he and his team could share Jesus with the locals and help villages prepare for the winter months. He wanted to take another trip there, this time rallying all our students to join in.

The only problem was I hadn’t been to Alaska and didn’t have any attachment to it. Doug could’ve been talking about Russia or China and my reaction would have been the same for the very same reason. I wasn’t invested into a process that gave me that vision.

Intentionality, if you will.

I awkwardly shared this with him, not to shoot him down but to ask how we could get kids to care about areas of the world beyond their own. It occurred to me (perhaps for the first time) that I’d never done this in previous churches and much of the enthusiasm for mission trips or certain areas of the world came from me. Students may have had good experiences once they jumped in, but it really required me asking them to get passionate about what I was passionate about.

Using Acts 1:8 as a model, we wondered, “What does Christ’s mission to reach ‘Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ represent to us?” We brainstormed a four-step strategy to warm the hearts of students toward doing more than events and trips but progressively thinking like a missionary. Think about how this plays out for your ministry:

  • MissionsOne-time local opportunities: How can you help students have a no-strings-attached experience in blessing others locally? Maybe it’s using a youth group night to do yard work for homes near your building, or perhaps it’s a Big Day of Serving event you bring to town. How could you give them their first taste of the joy of serving?
  • Area partnerships: Who in your area could you create a relational commitment with? For example, if you have a high number of teen pregnancies in your area should you partner with a Christian crisis pregnancy center? What about identifying an area or need close by for a Week of Hope project?
  • Drivable distances: Where could you take a road trip to help teens experience different cultures within your culture, so it still feels like what they know yet presents a different demographic or perspective? Is there a before-and-after story they can join into, such as a Group Workcamp?
  • Extended opportunities: What parts of the world should you care about and send teams to? Is there a ministry students could keep track of and hear regular updates on how their investment is paying off? For us, it was Alaska. For you, it may be something through LifeTree Adventures.

A process like this gives kids a taste of evangelism and serving at one level before they jump into the next. An obvious benefit is they can take steps forward as they’re comfortable. A hidden benefit is they don’t just go on a trip “somewhere else” without having a foundation of engagement where they live.

Intentionality, if you will.

Is this the one thing that’s missing in your approach to missions? Might some type of strategy like this or something else give you the forethought needed for the future to helps kids think about sharing Jesus today? I’d love to interact with you on this, so toss in your thoughts and let’s figure this out together.

Thank you for loving students!

- Tony

Marty McFly.

Biff Tannen.

Doc Brown.

Depending on when you were born, you’ve likely either had a full-fledged theater experience or an at-home movie viewing of Back to the Future. It’s arguably one of the better movie franchises to come out of the 1980′s, thanks to its writing, directing and acting.

backtothefutureLet’s not forget the car either. Seriously, I still want a DeLorean.

A website called the A.V. Club compared how the actors appeared in the original movie (with makeup that aged them 30 years) with how they now look 30 years later.

It’s an interesting commentary on pop culture.

Speaking of the 80′s, that was really the era when the average household began owning a video camera. Since then, we’ve gone from having to lug around large TV-reporter-sized units to putting phone-sized HD tech into our pockets.

I wonder… as a youth worker, have you by chance kept any video footage of students over the years?

  • Ever record a baptism?
  • Did you snag the moment they gave their lives to Jesus during a camp altar call?
  • Have you ever caught them talking about what matters to them?

Where is that footage? Is it just collecting dust, or could you serve those old students by doing something with it?

  • What if you had a pizza party with some students who graduated a few years ago and showed them some highlights from when they were active in youth group?
  • How about creating a Facebook page where teens (likely now young adults) could share their favorite pics and videos in one place?
  • Is there some guy (or gal) in his twenties who needs to receive a DVD in the mail of a missions trip you all went on together 10 years earlier?

Maybe we need to take a cue from pop culture and help the present-day people go “back to the future” they said they knew God wanted them to live. I did this once by showing a girl, who got wrapped up in guys her senior year, footage of her in her freshman year declaring she was going to put God first in her relational life.

What do you think this value could look like in your context?

Thank you for loving students!

-Tony



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!

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)