FearThe one thing we all fear is not the devil. It’s change.Throughout history change has never been easy. The Pharisee’s didn’t hate Jesus because He was doing good things.They hated him because of the fact that He came to change things.They were so set in their ways of thinking that they missed the Messiah even though they knew He was coming the way that He did.The pain endured during the civil rights movement was all about certain people fearing change.

I remember when Blockbuster was the largest video rental store in America doing around 6 billion in sales year.Then came Netflix who said “Subscribe to us and don’t leave your home. We’ll send your movie rental to you.” Well, in the beginning Blockbuster could of taken Netflix out by turning millions of their customers into subscribers. But no, blockbuster who was comfortable with their 6 billion cushion, thought Netflix was a fad, and that they would eventually go away. Well, they were definitely wrong, and in 2010 Blockbuster was 900 million dollars in debt and had to file chapter 11 (bankruptcy).

We as human beings don’t like change. I would even go as far as to say we as the church don’t like it either. And if we are not careful we could end up like the Pharisees’ missing out on a great opportunity in advancing God’s kingdom…all because we allow change to scare us instead of motive us. We let our comfort with the way things are dictate how we react to change.

We have to understand change happens all the time. The world we live in now is completely different then the world our parents grew up in. My kids will grow up in a world different then the one I grew up in. Change is inevitable.

I love how Jesus adapted to change in His ministry. He used relevance to be relatable. He related to people where they were. He never told people you must conform to me first, then I will do for you or give to you. He just meets people where they are, and you never see them go back to the way they were before. I have to assume based on Jesus’s ministry 2000 years ago here on earth, that if He would have lived today, His messages would reflect the things of today. I have to assume that His parables could include the iPhone, TV’s, Ford Fusion hybrid, and yes, even Chick-fil-a. Jesus’s ministry was relevant.

Also, many times Jesus did things before He was supposed to. That’s why you see Him many times telling people not to say anything. He knew it wasn’t His time yet. So I can just imagine Jesus saying two things to us that He modeled, “Let’s stay relevant so people will have a interest in listening to us and let’s not fear doing things differently just because tradition says you can’t.” It seems like change gave Jesus a creative license to reach everyone. Now, Jesus didn’t change His message. He just changed the presentation so that He could reach everyone.

We must do the same. We must be willing to change with the times. I was listening to the radio and heard this song from the 90′s and they mentioned Myspace. (HA!) If you mentioned Myspace today, kids would laugh at you or look at you as if you are crazy, because times have changed. Myspace is no longer a cultural norm.

My prayer is that we don’t become like the Pharisees when it comes to change. Where we become so comfortable with the way we do things that we see change as a threat. And we do whatever it takes to stay the way we are, even at the cost of reaching more for Christ. I also pray we don’t become like Blockbuster doing ministry with our heads underground not paying attention to growing trends and innovation, thinking the way we’ve done things for 50 years is the way we can do things forever.

So the question is “Does change move you towards fear or innovation?”

hope it helps

ac

bleeding woman touches jesus

Every year our junior high, high school and college teams sneak away for “Staff Camp”. We jam-pack the 36 hours away with training, dreaming, planning, laughing, playing and eating…lots of eating.

It’s at Staff Camp that I introduce the area(s) of our ministry that I’d like us to give extra attention in the upcoming year. Usually, I pick aspects of our ministry that have tangible, measurable results affixed and challenge our team to give these areas a little boost in the next 12 months. But not this year. This year I decided I wanted our team to focus on ourselves instead of on our youth ministry. Granted, as we boost these two areas personally, it will impact our ministry but that wasn’t the ultimate goal.

So this year, I’ve asked our youth ministry team to strive to be more faithful and faith-filled. Here’s how I hope that plays out:

FAITHFUL: A big part of being a youth pastor is simply showing up; being faithful to your role….making the donuts. Knowing your spiritual gifts and using them faithfully, being consistent in the little things, refusing to bury your talents, etc. are some of the ways we can be more faithful in our roles as youth workers.

FAITH-FILLED: One of my favorite Jesus encounters in scripture is when the bleeding woman reaches out to touch his robe as he walked by. Her “If/Then” faith is astounding. She didn’t know much about Jesus…mostly stuff she had heard through the grapevine, but she had the faith to think, “If I can touch him, then I will be healed”. I want our team to have that kind of faith! I want our team to do youth ministry with an “If/Then” mentality! What might it look like if we minister in a way that assumes Jesus will show up if we give him the chance!

Chances are you and I haven’t met. I don’t know if you are full time or part time; the leader of your youth ministry or part of the team. I don’t know the size, style or denomination of your church; if your youth groups meets in a spacious youth center or in the janitor’s closet. I don’t know the challenges you’re facing or the victories you’ve won.

But I do know that you can be faithful and faith-filled….and if you were on my team, that’s what I’d be hoping for you this year!



parableEvery once in a while you find a video that feels the perfect parable for just about anything.

I’m not sure if this one qualifies,but as I watch it I see so many analogies regarding how relationships can work.

  • Our relationships in the church
  • Our relationships in the home
  • Our relationships with those we serve
  • Our relationships with those we serve alongside of
  • Our relationship with God

Ignore the lyrics of this (if you can), and look for how the dynamics of this may speak to you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qJW0CgP-bA

Share your comments/insights as you do. Thanks!

symc-2014

Are you registered for SYMC 2014? When I head out to Columbus, I want to pack lite and be ready for a great experience! This is not an exhaustive list of tech tips to make SYMC 2014 smooth sailing, but hopefully you will be able to mentally download some good trips ideas here. These tips come from years of conference-going and many are specific to my time with SYMC. I hope these will help you have a more successful trip!

TIP #1 Know what tracks and workshops you want to attend (at least know what is available). Knowing ahead of time will make your life easier. Check out the scheduling tool SYMC has provided symc2014.sched.org. If you prefer to schedule directly from your smartphone click here. Check out the details on the scheduling resource here conference.youthministry.com/schedule.

TIP #2 Book Store Discount…Bring your senior pastor’s credit card!

TIP #3 Bring a bag/backpack. You will be carrying your Bible, Participant Journal, Pen, Hotel Key, iPod, Headphones, Cell Phone, Water Bottle, Laptop, Moleskine, Deodorant, Backup Hotel Key, Gum, Chapstick, USB Thumb Drive, (remember when we actually carried a Digital Camera too?)…and on top of all that you will need to leave room for all the stuff you pick up in different areas of the conference hallways from conference partners, in workshops, and at the bookstore while you are at SYMC.

TIP #4 Bring business cards and address stickers. This is a little nerdy and lazy but I do not like filling out my address dozens of times over the weekend…I have seen people stick a sticker on those forms, complete with; Name, Address, Phone, and Email. The business cards are for networking…you may want to bring something to hold other people’s cards so you don’t lose them (or take a picture of it with your cell phone app that turns business cards into a contact and throw the card out…when they are not looking).

TIP #5 Connect with other youth workers! If you bring team members, don’t do the easy thing by spending all your time with them. Try to spend time with people you may never get to see again. Try a Connect Group. Find the National Network of Youth Ministries and ask them to help you meet other youth workers in your area. Ask people in your workshops to lunch and kick around what you have been learning or struggling with…if they say they can’t because they are on a budget offer to buy.

TIP #5.5 Connect with the speakers. There will be aome of the sharpest minds in youth ministry at SYMC. Connect!

TIP #6 Need some love?? Soul Care, enough said!

TIP #7 Don’t forget the tag your tweets with #SYMC. Run a search for #SYMC on Twitter to see and be a part of all the buzz!

TIP #8 See someone taking notes like crazy? Ask if they are a blogger and if they are posting their notes online!

TIP #9 Bring a squirt gun and shoot the guy who has to answer every question the track speaker asks, just kidding….but seriously, don’t be that guy.

TIP #10 When you get home write a short letter to your ministry point person on your leadership team telling them how amazing your time at SYMC was, share a few nuggets of what you learned, and thank them for making it possible (time away, money, etc…this effort can go a long way with leadership). If you paid for SYMC yourself, write that letter to your spouse. If you are single, take yourself out for ice cream and review your notes. If you are lactose intolerant consider taking one of those Lactaid pills or just pray about the risk.

I know there are way more than 10 tips, and I am sure that you have some that are even better than these. So, please share your best conference tips in the comments below! Hope to see you at SYMC 2014!!!!!

-Brandon

@uthguy9



UncommonWisdomfrontcoverWith your permission, I’d like to share an adaption of the introduction to my book “Uncommon Wisdom from the Other Side: A Senior Pastor Talks Youth Ministry.”

Not because I want to sell you a book
(although, feel free to buy one).

I want to share something so important that I wrote it there, and have written it here.

 


medic4Thank you for signing up to reach the next generation.

Your heart will gain scars.

You’ll be misled by others.

Close friends will seemingly abandon you.

The resources may run out.

You may fake your faith some days for the sake of others.

Simple things Christians say will annoy you.

The church you serve may appear two-dimensional in your three-dimensional stress.

Students will let you down.

You will disciple at least one Judas.

People will say all kinds of unkind things about you and your family.

And it is the best possible way to live.

medic3It would be easier to just pat you on the back, but you need to know what you’re being patted into.

The reason it’s called “ministry” is because someone is needed to “minister”-which implies a gap exists that needs filling. You may occasionally get applause for doing this, but if you’re looking for it you have things backward.

Trouble will hit.

Relational blood will be spilled.

People you expect to be medics will at times be holding the knife.

And you’ll at times be one of the guilty parties.

medic5If you can see this for what it is and enter the chaos glued to Jesus, you’ll unearth questions about church and ministry you didn’t realize existed.

You’ll also see some things about God you’d like to change, such as how he gets to call the shots on good days and bad days. You’ll later treasure these things because when you aren’t able to answer the “what happens next” question, you’ll start focusing on the “who can I love who is in front of me now” question.

That’s the question that really matters more, anyway.

It’s going to be ugly. Anytime something full of life is born,
there is a big, bloody mess.

Why do we forget this and whine about it when it happens?

Then again… perhaps you feel OK with ministry today and are nodding, assuming you’re ready for whatever comes next.

  • Will you keep nodding when your spouse is about to experience a nervous breakdown because of your “calling”?
  • Will you keep nodding when your own walk with God feels drier than it’s ever been and you have another message to deliver?
  • Will you keep nodding when the bliss of working inside the four walls of a church starts to feel like solitary confinement?

Such hardships may not dominate, but there will likely be seasons when everything seems crazy and Jesus will need you to help redeem even the “redeemed.”

  • This is where what you preach finally gets owned.
  • This is where your faith moves from practical ideas about living to oxygen when you’re suffocating.
  • This is where you take on Satan, not out of adrenaline, but out of Jesus.

medic2Consider this line from C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters where one demon counsels another on wearing down a man who has given himself to their “enemy” God:

“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

It’s not my aim to destroy your faith but to ground it in the Lord before it gets destroyed. Ministry will give you every circumstance to abandon what you’re doing because there’s always a seemingly nicer job at a store or restaurant down the street where you can clock in and clock out.

Then again, perhaps you weren’t made to clock in and clock out.

Maybe (just maybe) you will deny yourself, carry your cross, follow Jesus, and experience a resurrection in this generation.

(Note the order of that sentence. It’s what turns you into a battlefield medic for the Church.)

Doing that will unearth more of God than you feel prepared for, which in turn will make you run off screaming or surrendered on your own cross, because you finally see students like he does.

Because youth ministry is ugly and beautiful… all at the same time.

 

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!*

Spooky_Oct2013_630x200

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!



definitionsSome phrases or words or topics are commonly used in the Church:

  • “We need to grow spiritually
  • “We want to make sure everyone is being discipled…”
  • “We need to train people in evangelism
  • Spiritual disciplines are important for every Christian”

But using these phrases often doesn’t mean people actually understand what we’re talking about.  People might be able to use the terms in the right context and in the right ways, but if asked to define these things most would have a hard time doing so.  Well, I’ve realized more than ever we have to make sure these types of things are defined clearly and simply.  If not, all we do is train people in Christianese – a language we use that nobody really understands.

So, I thought I would do is provide the definitions I use in our church.  You might already have your own definitions that are concise and effective.  If that’s you, then maybe mine can just be something you compare/contrast yours with.  If you don’t have these defined concisely, I would recommend doing so immediately.  Leadership requires us to be clear.

The first word or phrase I will define in this series is: spiritual growth.

This phrase is tossed around a lot, but nobody really knows what we mean.  So I have defined it.  It may not be a perfect definitions, but I believe we can say we have grown spiritually

if the time it takes us to read scripture and embrace it is less than it used to be. 

This definition does a number of things other than just providing a definition:

  1.  It leans on Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 that says the goal of our teaching people about him and his ways is obedience.  We cannot feel like we’ve grown spiritually simply because we can regurgitate scripture.  Reading the bible makes us Christian as much as reading People Magazine makes us a celebrity.
  2. Implies that we need to be growing in our understanding of scripture.
  3. It insinuates actions need to be taken after reading.

How do you feel about that definition?  See any holes in it?  Any other benefits you see it having?  If you have defined it for yourself and ministry, please share it so we can all learn.

MTDB1I know when you see this type of topic it’s more about being a great follower of other people like the head Pastor’s vision or leadership in general, which I think is great, but I also believe that at the core of a great leader is a great follower of Christ.  I’m always reminded by the Apostle Paul who followed Christ to his grave that the better I follow Christ, the better I lead.  If you read about Paul’s life you will see that his goal was to follow Christ with everything. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Pursue being a follower of Jesus and the impact of your life and leadership will out last you and carry over into eternity.

So in order for me to lead well I must pursue a greater lifestyle of following Jesus. There are definitely more, but here are a five ways we as leaders continue to allow Christ to lead in us and through us.

  1. I seek GodMatt 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. My focus should be on knowing him and not on what I can get from him. The more I know him the better I’m able to follow him. I’m a better leader when I spend time with God.
  2. I allow Christ to search and change my heart - In order to fully follow Christ there must be a continual cleansing and changing of the heart. The bible says in (Jeremiah 17:9) the heart is desperately deceitful and wicked. David knew that and wrote Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. I hear people say “just follow your heart” or “the heart wants what the heart wants”, but God says it’s deceitful and wicked. Sometimes we make decisions apart from God’s word being led by our hearts and we end up doing harm to ourselves and to those we are suppose to be leading. So allow Christ to search and change your heart so that you’re leading by the word of God and not on the impulses of your heart. Allow God to replace your corrupted heart for one that beats for his guidance. I’m a better leader when I understand the importance of following God’s word above all else, even the heart.
  3. I allow the teachings of Christ to lead me - Psalms 25:5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.  Followers of Christ are called to care deeply about exemplifying the teachings of Christ in their own life first. The more I learn and understand the teachings of Christ the better I’m able to apply them to my life on a daily bases, and also allow what I learn to lead and guide my decision making. I become a better leader when I allow Christ to lead me.
  4. I allow Christ who lives in me to lead through meGalatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. The life of a follower of Christ is a person who continually allows Christ to lead. God wants to do amazing things through each of us, but we must allow him to work through us and that will take us dying to our plans and allowing his plans for our lives to live. I become a better leader when I allow Christ to lead through me.
  5. I allow his wisdom to lead meProverbs 3:6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

We become better leaders when we devote our lives to being great followers of Jesus Christ. What would you add to this list?

hope it helps

ac