Abusing Influence

 —  February 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

Its starts with a pitch, which starts with a few compliments. Hey Geoff, you are a really outgoing guy, you probably have a lot of friends and people in the Church really respect you. It sounds great so far until the words I fear the most come out , “I have an opportunity for you.”

He proceeds to remind me that I probably don’t get paid a lot working in ministry, but I have a lot of people that respect me that would surely get on board with this new business opportunity. He said you could make thousands of extra dollars a month by simply talking to and recruiting people who trust me, who would recruit their friends to sell a product to their families and friends. Its a win-win-win he said.

While the promise of increased income and being able to stay in ministry might sounds appealing, I can’t think of many things that would be more compromising my leadership than using my influence to promote or sell any sort of product or business opportunity. Our students and congregation trust that our intentions are to shepherd them into growing relationship with Christ. They also trust that we are not going to shepherd them into lining our wallets. If you are recommending a resource or book, be sure that it is beneficial to your people ahead being beneficial to you for them to buy it.

As a person of influence you will likely be approached at some point about a multi-level marketing opportunity, but I beg of you to not get involved. You are at risk of being tempted to abuse your authority and influence for your own financial gain. No only is it unwise, unfair, but really unethical.

These worlds can not collide, because when our motives become muddy and unclear, our authority and leadership will suffer for it.

Please don’t abuse your influence.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

My first year in ministry has been incredibly awesome, incredibly hard, and easily the best year I’ve had yet. It has been so great to look back and reflect on all of the successes and… not successes that I’ve had this year and see how much God has taught me along the way. I thought I would share a few of the big things that I have learned this year.

Look Around. I’m an ambitious person. I am always looking ahead at what is coming next and always looking at achieving my goals. This has been really helpful in my career, but at the same time, really challenging. It keeps me from pausing and embracing where I am. It seems like it’s so hard to be present. I found before I started working on it, I was rarely satisfied with where I was or what I had. It kept me from taking a break and trying to see what God was trying to teach at that moment, to see what opportunities He was trying to present. So I learned to not just look ahead, but around as well. I learned to try to find out the purpose God has for me in this stage of my life. It is far more important to achieve God’s goal for my life than my own.

Ministry is a Rhythm. A couple weeks ago, our church’s head pastor spoke to our Student Ministries Team. One for the most impactful things that he talked about was that ministry is a series of rhythms. Sometimes we take the things we want to spend our time doing (family time, personal time, ministry time, etc.) and prioritize it or faction it out. We try to make sure that at all times, every part of our life is getting attention. The problem is that isn’t how ministry works. Sometimes you need to spend more time in ministry. You will spend 60 hours in the office and have an event every night of the week, but that is okay. Its okay because you will (eventually) have a time where you don’t need to spend more time in ministry and you will have more time to spend more time by yourself, with your family, or whatever you need. Ministry is a series of ebbs and flows; give and take. This is guilt-free ministry.

Be Expectant. I was originally going to title this point as “Trust God,” but I think that “be expectant” does the idea more justice. Trusting God is an action, a great action, but being expectant is a mentality and a lifestyle. The last year was filled with uncertainty. Whether it was the success of an event or my future in general, I was so afraid that God wasn’t going to provide and I focused more on being okay with things not working out than expecting God to show up. I wasn’t praying the “big” prayers because I was afraid I’d be disappointed if it didn’t come through. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes God doesn’t provide in the ways that we want and that can be disappointing, but He always provides in the ways that we need. We need to be praying those big prayers and expecting God to show up in big ways.

For most of you, your first year of ministry wasn’t very recent… but you are still learning! What are some of the biggest lessons God has taught you during your time in ministry?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

Last week we talked about rejoicing under pressure, this week we are going to talk about pushing through the pressure. We all have to undergo pressure at some point in our lives, but not all of us push through it. Some choose to grow faint and weary and become content, never truly living life to its fullest.

Change your perspective
When you are the one being pressured, it feels as if you are the only one that exists and the pressure can become so tight, it seems unbearable. It seems unbearable when you see it so closely. Try taking a few steps back and looking at your situation from the lenses of eternity. God is using you to bring glory to His name. Imagine if you stopped thinking about yourself for a minute and put your focus on Jesus and what He is doing in and through you. You would see a lot clearer, feel the weight lifted from your shoulders and begin to live in freedom.

Trust in the Lord
In order to look through the lenses of eternity, you have got to decide to put your trust in the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Make your mind up now that you are not going to allow the pressure to consume you. Trust that God is up to something and that the answers to your prayers are on its way. God has a plan, not only for you, but for all of His creation through you.

This week, I challenge you to begin to trust the Lord in your circumstances and to see life through the lenses of eternity.

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

Stop the Bottleneck

 —  February 15, 2012 — 3 Comments

If there’s a bottleneck in your ministry, guess what? It’s probably you!

Think about it for a second — you’re the point person of the ministry, so doesn’t it make sense that decisions roll up through you? In a centralized leadership structure (like most churches) there is one central figure, usually a youth pastor, who is tasked with making the call on a variety of issues. But therein lies the problem: everything comes to a screeching halt when that person has too many plates spinning. When they are on vacation, good luck moving everything forward. If and when they leave, it all comes crashing down.

If you’re the point person, aka the bottleneck, consider this plan in the next season of ministry:

Realize you are an equipper
The pastor is not supposed to control everything — your primary job is to equip others to do the work of the ministry. Make sure you are helping others do great ministry, not just helping out with yours.

Give as much of your ministry away as possible
One of the most painful times in ministry is when you begin to give away the things that you love. But you will be healthier, and you will relieve pressure on the bottleneck. Yesterday we talked about giving away the stuff you don’t like, but holding on to too much stuff you do like, is classic bottleneck behavior.

Trust them with decisions
Don’t take back what you gave. Refuse to look over their shoulder every second of the day. Trust them with the tasks and responsibilities you gave them and have confidence their calls. If you’ve done a good job of preparing (and equipping) they’re ready for this. There will be some pains along the way, but they will be growing pains…and it hurts so good!

Regularly evaluate and guide
What if instead of holding everyone back by being the bottleneck, you helped everyone get better. If you give ministry away, you add a new opportunity to coach your people and help strengthen their skills. Next, you can mentor and guide them to give their ministry away, too — maybe this time to a student!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

If you started to wonder this week … yes, God is still at your youth group.

God’s Spirit isn’t done quite yet in your church and in your life — even if it feels like it sometimes. I’m just about to cross 2,000 youth services I’ve played some part in — and I’m so grateful to know that God is working even when……

  • ProPresenter crashes in the middle of your message and at the worst possible moment
  • Your worship lyrics are riddled with misspeellings (<– I left that one in for you)
  • That funny game left a permanent stain in the old sanctuary carpet
  • You thought for sure the movie clip didn’t have THAT word in it
  • You were outnumbered at an event when your volunteers flaked out
  • There is a distinct odor in the church van that may never come out
  • Your small group was so out of control you feel the need to offer to repaint the host home’s family room
  • The tears from that student after your message … were because her boyfriend just broke up with her
  • The sermon you thought would be a homerun was a bunt at best

If it all goes wrong, if your talk tanks, if you feel that your youth ministry isn’t working … rest assured: It isn’t working. But God is.

God loves to show up when we’re down. He seems to specialize in being very present when He seems so absent. He’s there … He’s changing your students one botched program at a time. When your mission trip has an epic fail or your small group has a night (or several nights) of endless blunders … know that God is up to something big and your best attempts to stop him won’t work. He is working in spite of you, to see your students transformed.


Danger: Trusting everything a student tells you. I know most dads want to think the very best about their student. So, for example, if (insert your student’s name) says that they are reading their Bible, most dads take that for face value. When what the student really may be saying is that they are spending one minute looking at the Bible so that they can tell their dad they are reading their Bible.

Solution: Actually engage your student in conversation. Talk with them. Ask questions. Probe the statement they are making. In every arena. Not just Bible reading, but talk with about school, and other activities. Take time to go have Starbucks, cast a line, or go for a drive time and really talk to them. They need it. You need it! This is a form of spiritual protection…knowing about your student.

Danger: Spiritual health is just another aspect of our busy life. Corporate worship, Christian fellowship, and Christian accountability are just other items on our long list of things that we do. In fact, we typically do those things when we don’t have anything else to do (homework, sports practices/games, family trips, attending sporting events, etc…). Students are taught through this behavior that spiritual health is something that we are ultimately concerned with when we have nothing else to do.

Solution: Make spiritual health a priority for your family and its members. Don’t miss corporate worship. Don’t allow your students to make excuses for missing church (i.e. no one else is going, I have too much homework, I have a game, etc..) There are certainly occasions when families miss church (which should be rare). The idea is to promote the importance of Christian fellowship and accountability. When you are forced to be out of town as a family, find a church to attend on Sunday mornings. Communicate to your students that they cannot be involved in extracurricular activities that draw you as a family away from church by playing/performing on Sundays. This reinforces the fact that our spiritual health is the ultimate priority in your family. This too is spiritual protection!

Danger: Tell them what they should be doing, but don’t model it in your own life. They need to see it in you! When is the last time your students saw you tell yourself “No” to something? Yes, you tell them no to things (which by the way is, in many cases, the right thing to do), but they never see you telling yourself “no” for the sake of the gospel and glory of the Lord. In my opinion, this is the greatest exposure to spiritual danger for students. A hypocrite. If there is one thing that a student can recognize and see instantly it’s a hypocrite. Satan can use that to either push them totally away from the faith or damage their faith significantly.

Solution: Students need genuineness. They need to see you talk a big game and live a big game for Christ. They need you to be open and honest with them. They need to know areas in which you struggle and when you mess up (you will!) they need you to man up to your mistakes, ask the Lord and your family for forgiveness, and commit to doing better for the glory of God. Too many dads either don’t allow their students to see who they really are (which makes them hypocrites in the eyes of their students) or they simply aren’t really who they say they are (which is the definition of a hypocrite).

Tony Richmond is the High School Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller in Keller, Texas.

On July 29, my wife gave birth to our first child, a daughter named Kaia. In the morning prior to Kaia’s birth, I had been reading Psalm 34, and my heart was re-captured by verse 8, which reads:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.” – Psalm 34:8

I was so excited for the day and for what God had in store for us that I posted that verse as my facebook status, in anticipation of tasting God’s good gift of Fatherhood. I had no idea how big of a bite I would be taking, or how intensely I would be tasting and seeing whether or not the Lord really is good.

Shortly after birth, Kaia was admitted to the NICU, due to irregular breathing. We were so scared. After the longest day of my life, I sent out an email at nearly 3:00 AM, sharing about Kaia’s birth and asking my friends and family to pray for Kaia.

Over the course of the next 19 days, I frequently wrote prayer updates in the middle of the night. I wrote to ask everyone to pray for Kaia, to pray for us, and to point them to the God who holds the entire universe in His hands. There were some good days, where I wrote with excitement, but there were more days where I wrote with tears running down my face. On August 17, Kaia died in my arms. That night I wrote my last prayer update, and many who had been praying for us wept with us and shared our sorrow. Many also shared our hope in a God who is good, in the midst of the pain.

As another Fall of Youth Ministry is kicking off in the church where I serve, I am still struggling to be anything other than an internal disaster. The truth is, though, I am learning a lot in the midst of my grief and pain. I know God has only begun to teach me through Kaia’s life and death, but here is some of what He is teaching me so far.

Grieve Well
A friend and mentor came and visited us one evening while Kaia was still in the hospital. One of the best things he said to us was to “grieve well”. Though Kaia was still alive at the time, we were already grieving as we watched her struggle to hold on to life. To grieve well is to embrace the pain, rather than running from it or avoiding it. It is avoiding the temptation to hold back tears, and instead letting the tears fall, even in front of people. To grieve well is to be present in the pain, to talk about the feelings that come, and to share the experience with others. It means feeling every ounce of the pain, and inviting God to meet you and sustain you in the midst of your grief.

Your Grief Isn’t Just For Your Sake
Seasons of intense grief provide clear windows into your soul. Those who watch you grieve are going to get an uncommon, insider look at your soul. As you cling to Jesus in the pain, you will find the hope He has promised, and you will show others who are struggling where they can find hope, too. You also provide a roadmap for others who will later face pain, helping them to see what it looks like to struggle with the pain that life brings and, at the same time, to find Jesus to be all-sufficient.

God Really Is Good
I know more about God’s goodness now than I did before Kaia was born. He has truly sustained us and continues to sustain us. The example of God giving the Israelites manna in the desert is such a good example for our experience so far. Every day God has been good to give us the strength we need for the day, and to bring people around us to give us strength on the days when we have been lacking. He has fed us through the Psalms, where we see over and over again that we aren’t the first people to experience pain. We see in the words of David and others that God has been deeply good to His people in the past, and we find hope that He will be deeply good to us as we go forward.

The prayer updates about Kaia spread from our small circle of friends and family to thousands of people, who prayed for and loved Kaia during her 20 days of life. The prayer updates were put together into a book, in hopes that Kaia’s story would continue to point others to Jesus and encourage them to trust Him in the midst of difficult circumstances. Pray For Kaia: She Is Such A Gift can be found here, or for more information about the book and about Kaia’s story, go to www.prayforkaia.com.

This guest post was written by Ryan Donovan. He is graduate of Multnomah University in Portland, OR and serves as the Youth and Ministry Pastor at Evergreen Bible Church in Vancouver, WA.

One of my favorite traditions we do as a Student Ministries Team here at Saddleback is that we take an annual retreat together. This week I’ve been enjoying a much-needed week away with the team. I needed it for my own soul and refreshment, but our team needs it as well. Here’s why:

We eat/laugh/play together
I laughed last night more than I have in a long time. I laugh a lot, most people even think of me as an easy laugh, but last night was particularly fun. In the “head down” rushing pace of youth ministry sometimes we forget to laugh. Getting away on a retreat let’s you put your guard down. Conversations over meals are the best, and time in the pool or on the tennis courts is super fun.

We share stories together
Last night we had a youth ministry art show – everyone on the team was given a small canvas and asked to create something about youth ministry. It was incredible to see the heart come out and some really unique perspectives on the each others stories and the story of youth ministry.

We make memories together
The more memories, the strong the bond. Staff retreat gives us a chance for spontaneous memories to form and new inside jokes to be created. It helps fill trust reservoirs.

We head home to do battle with the enemy together
The team that retreats together … advances together. Most of the team heads back tomorrow to immediately dive into the final throes of HSM Summer Camp prep. We’ll jump right into an extremely busy season, but filled and ready to fight again for another year.