Nature all around us intertwines and works together harmoniously. The birds in the air chirp, the leaves in the trees rustle as the wind gently blows as we kick and SCREAM, “Life is too HARD!” Why does everything known to nature naturally and gracefully do what they were made to do…except us, we seem to complicate everything! Imagine living in simplicity like the birds of the air, the leaves in the trees and the wind in the air; life would be, well, simple.

We take many paths in our lives that lead to complications which are better left avoided to begin with. Let’s take a look at a few of these paths.

1. I am not good enough path. As people, we are not perfect. It is time to stop thinking we are and give ourselves room for mistakes; even the mistake of complicating things. God has begun a good work in each of us and He will not give up on anyone of us. He is a faithful God; our rock.

2. Corrupted ways path. To keep it simple, we’ve got to keep it real; real to what God created us to do, to love & to do good works. It may sound like a challenge but God works in us, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases him; we’ve just got to have the desire to do it and ask for His help.

3. Force things to happen path. If we have to force something to happen, it shouldn’t be happening. Let go and let God. As we surrender, we can trust that God is in ultimate control and He will guide us in the direction we need to be.

4. Caught up in the things of this world path. This world can be a distraction. That is why it is important to know that we are in this world but not of it. When we know this, then we also know that in order to avoid the distractions of this world, we have got to saturate ourselves with the things of God. We will begin saturating ourselves with His word, in prayer and in fellowship with other believers as we learn this truth.

While it is easy to take the I am not good enough path, the corrupted ways path and the forcing things to happen path, it is freeing to take the path God has designed for us; the straight and narrow path of life. This path does not lead us to be perfect people but it does cause us to work harmoniously with one another and in tune with God and what He has planned for us.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.

Last week was our student ministry’s fall launch week. Every ministry has seasons, especially student ministry. For us, there are 3: Fall (starting in August), Winter/Spring (starting in January), & Summer (starting in June). The rhythm of these ministry seasons calls for realignment behind your God-given vision and communicating that vision to your people. This means two things: 1) who you are & 2) where you’re going. The fall season is even more crucial in this respect because it tends to be the biggest surge of the year in youth ministry. Students are returning to school and getting back into the swing of things for the year. They tend to be a little more on task and more apt to attend service if invited. So communicating vision within the context of your fall launch is a great way to start off the ministry year. I did this in both our middle school/high-school & college/20-something services.

For YouthQuake, I reemphasized our Live Extraordinarily, Lead Creatively, & Love Extravagantly vision that I spent alot of time developing and communicating last year. Putting this discipleship process out in front from the very beginning of our fall season gives us a starting point for where we are going. In other words, it’s our identity…the “who we are.” Check out Geiger & Borton’s Simple Student Ministry and Rainer & Geiger’s Simple Church for details on developing a central vision and discipleship process. From there, I was able to preach a sermon around the “who we are” and the “where we are going.” Breaking down the Matthew 10 passage of Jesus gathering and sending his disciples gave us the foundation for two new initiatives in YouthQuake. First, the “gathering” part of the sermon served as a launching pad for our conversation and announcement of our LIVE groups, small groups and discipleship ministry. We’ve been moving in this direction and are finally pulling the trigger on the “next step” in YouthQuake using Doug Fields’ LIVE Curriculum. Jesus spoke to the multitudes and the thousands, but made his greatest impact in his small group of disciples. Rather than making a trite announcement saying, “Hey, you should signup for this new program,” we were able to communicate the biblical foundation for small groups, the whys behind it, AND the big picture of our vision in a matter of a half-hour. In turn, the response has been through the roof and LIVE groups are already getting full. When you communicate the vision behind the program, the program makes more sense.

Secondly, we emphasized the sending aspect of Matthew 10 when Jesus commissions his disciples to go out the the “lost sheep of Israel.” Go to YOUR immediate context, the people you’re with everyday. Preach the gospel. The kingdom is near. Do extraordinary things. Heal the sick. Raise the dead. In other words, LIVE. LEAD. LOVE. From here, we announced our Lifebook initiative which I posted back in April HERE. Again, rather than announce the saturation week as another event on the calendar, we were able to cast the vision for the Lifebook initiative within the context of the sending portion of Matthew 10. I already have students begging for books to take to their school.

We communicated two major initiatives for the fall and the central vision behind who we are on one of the biggest nights of our ministry year. When you have a larger, captive audience, take your opportunity to cast vision. When you cast vision, people catch it and run with it. It gets your core students recharged, your sporadic students plugged in, and your new students more interested. And it doesn’t have to be a boring, informational meeting. Tie it into the gospel and central message of Jesus. We are gathered to be sent and to declare the good news of Jesus. When you do that, people get why you’re really there. Visioncasting can be very spiritually impacting if you take it seriously. Best part of the night: we had a girl who came for her second time this week give her life to Jesus for the first time AND signup for small-groups AND the Lifebook initiative. Why? Because she felt the presence of God AND our desire to follow Jesus AND our heart to make an impact in our schools and she wanted in. Vision communicates hope and a future. And I’m excited for what God has in store.

Bradley K. Chandler is a graduate of Southeastern University and is the Student Ministries Pastor at Trinity Worship Center in Burlington, NC. Be sure to subscribe to his blog here — good stuff for sure.