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

i-struggleI had a lot of great conversations around my last post. If you didn’t get to read it, here it is. I had a few conversations about the fact that a lot of the struggle is at the one-on-one level. And the question “What should I do if a student comes and says they are struggling with same sex attraction?” So I thought I’d share a few thoughts in this area. Definitely can’t share everything in one post, but here are some of the main points.

There is no quick fix to their struggle and so we need to be ready to walk with them for the long haul–especially in this area. Secondly, I believe lasting change is from the inside out and not the other way around. I believe God wants us concerned with the condition of the heart. So no matter what they struggle with Proverbs 4:23 gives me a good reason to start with the condition of the heart.

I will also say no matter what the struggle is, this is my approach. So here are a few things I do intentionally in a one-on-one situation:

  1. I listen – I’ve learned meeting with hundreds of students that when I shut up and genuinely listen they speak from the heart. Meaning, you do not need to impress them with your words or what you know, the only thing I want them to know in that instant is that they are being genuinely heard. I need to set my mind to absorb and not fix. The fixer will draw conclusions with bits and pieces of information with the intent to fix. The absorber is just taking in the information. Drawing a conclusion based on part of the story is dangerous, because you could be completely wrong on the cause and the solution. So listen and absorb. You need to hear their story completely, and they need to share it with you.
  2. I ask questions – You can’t rely on the students to have all of their thoughts together and share everything in one sitting. They will share with you, but it may not all connect or make sense. Ask questions on incomplete thoughts or to go deeper on a subject or area they have opened up about. Don’t just let it slide. Ask the tough questions. Example: if a student opens up about their relationship with their parents, go deeper in that area by asking more questions.
  3. I’m careful with my language – If the student comes in saying they have been struggling, you can assume that they already beat themselves down and thought of every negative thing you can think of. So I want to be careful that my words are seasoned with grace and love. The last thing I want is for them to leave feeling worse then when they showed up. Sometimes we justify our negativity with not watering down the truth. Well, take a beat from the Bible, because it guides us in how we should deliver the truth. (Proverbs 25:11, Proverbs 15:23, Ephesians 4:15)
  4. Focus on their relationship with Christ - A lot times we think that we need to focus on the problem or the struggle, and that’s just not true. The only cure to our brokenness in any way is through an authentic relationship with Christ. Asking the question “How is your relationship with Christ?” is where we find the problem and the solution. Not the solution to how we stop them from doing what they are doing, but the solution to an even bigger problem that plagues all of us. That is not growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, nor allowing the power of what He did on the cross to overtake our lives. Again, our job isn’t to change people…because we can’t. Our job is to point them to the one who can. Our job is not to focus on the problem or struggle, but to focus on the one and only solution Jesus Christ.

I’ve learned that at times, when I’m walking with a student through a struggle, I find myself thinking about how I can get this student out of the mess and hurt they find themselves in. Sometimes I wish I could just snap my finger and everything becomes all better. And I often hear God reminding me that He loves them more then I will ever be able to. There is not a solution that I have that will come close to what He’s able to do for them. So point them to Him.

Hope it helps,

ac



Mihinthalaya StepsI was just at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and sat through a workshop by Shawn Harrison, the author of Ministering To Gay Teenagers. I would definitely grab his book, it’s a great resource. The workshop was great also, but revealed that the silence of the church on this topic has placed us at a disadvantage in many ways. I would also say that because of our silence we have generations that have no idea how to handle it. Students know more about what the world says concerning homosexuality than what the bible says. This must change. For that to happen, we have to see and do things much differently than in the past.

Here are a few practical things we can begin to do:

  • Be on the same page as the church you’re working for. – As a youth pastors we need to know where our church stands on the issue and create a plan as a church in how we all will deal with members, leaders and students who are struggling. We want to make sure that however we as youth pastors are handling it, the church can back us up 100%.
  • Talk about it. - Everyday the world is finding ways to normalize sin. Our students need to hear where we stand and our hearts on the issue.  If we never expose it, our students will never seek help.
  • Be prepared for the conversations. – We should be prepared for the conversations we will have with our students. Whether you read through Shawn’s book together with your leaders or bring in the head pastor or elders, there should be some training so everyone is on the same page.

When speaking to students I know the easy answer is to call it sin and tell students not to engage in it, but we have to be careful when making statements like that. Because if that’s your main focus, then you are preaching that behavior modification equals salvation. In actuality, harping on behavior modification only leads to a secret life of the sin they are fighting against. So we must be careful that we don’t treat any sin as a mere change in action…because sin goes deeper than that.

So here are a few things to think about when speaking to students:

  • God’s view - A lot of times students are struggling with the temptation, but also God’s rejection that they believe comes with the temptation and lifestyle. It’s important they understand the difference between God’s love and view of us and his approval or disapproval of our actions.
  • Temptation - Being tempted to sin is not sin. It’s what’s done with the temptation that can result in sin. You may have students who are being tempted by this lifestyle and are tortured by the guilt of just being tempted. The world is calling it denying your true self. Well, they need to hear and know from us what the Bible says about it.
  • Life is complicated – We all have different stories that are layered with not just our own experiences, but generational experiences that affect us just as much. That’s why we need more people caring for the lives of students, and not just harping on their behavior. If you care about their life, you will affect their behavior. We need to minister holistically and not departmentally-especially in this area.
  • Their struggle is not their identity - Just because you struggle with sin, doesn’t mean you have to be defined by it. When we reinforce the labels of gay, lesbian, etc…we continue to identify people by their struggle. If you’ve given your life to Christ, your identity is first and foremost in Christ. Now, you still may struggle, but understanding your identity gives you power over your struggle. It’s the beginning of the road to deliverance.

I really hope that you didn’t hear in my post that this should be easy, because it’s not. What I do hope you’ve heard in my post is that our students need to hear from us. We can’t stand on the side lines any longer. I also think we all have something to add to the conversation. So what’s missing from this post?

Hope it helps,

ac

TightropeHave you ever been stressed out about ministry simply over the fact that you didn’t feel it was balanced? Well, welcome to the club. I think that a lot of times we over-value things that we probably could spend less time thinking about, and we probably under-value things we should be thinking more about. I think the solution isn’t necessarily balancing things out, but prioritizing them.

I totally understand that there must be some element of balance or else you will end up giving more attention to one area of the ministry over the others. What I also know is trying to bring balance doesn’t necessarily bring efficiency. As a steward, efficiency sometimes needs to trump balance. When your ministry becomes balanced efficiently, every area is receiving the same amount of focus and energy. But if we’re honest, in most cases, we are unable to efficiently balance everything.

Here some reasons why it’s hard to balance ministry efficiently:

  1. Lack of staff
  2. Lack of volunteers
  3. Lack of leadership support
  4. An abundance of “ministry is just not that easy.” haha

So we force programs and events for the sake of balance because we either feel guilty, or we’re trying to keep up with other ministries. For some of us we think we’re not believing God, because we are playing it safe. And that is just not true. I get the saying, “Set goals that you can’t achieve without God.” I agree with that wholeheartedly, but goals are one thing and trying to prove that you’re trusting God by over-extending you ministry is another. We are called to steward what God has given us and sometimes choosing efficiency over balance is the right choice. If you’ve found yourself in the space of trying to do too much too soon, then here are a few steps I would take:

  • EvaluateMake a list of all the things you’re doing in your ministry. It could be programs, events, missions, etc. And then ask yourself the question “Which ones can we maybe not do for a season, so we can strengthen the ones that our church value as a whole?”
  • Refocus – Instead of trying to balance the list you’ve come up with, prioritize the list you came up with based on the programs and events that the ministry values most. Then cut the ones for a season that may be great, but may also be hindering the ones you prioritized as core. 
  • Invest - Make those programs and events the best. Take the time you would be using to think and dream about the eliminated programs and events. Invest that time, money, and personnel to become efficiently balanced in those programs and events.

Again, I’m a firm believer that we should dream based on God’s ability not ours, but I also must balance that with wisdom. So here’s a few things to think about:

  • It’s OK not to do everything you want to do for the ministry all at the same time.
  • It’s OK to grow strategically.
  • It’s OK to plan.

I know that the goal for any youth ministry is to be all it’s meant to be. All I’m stating is be strategic about how you get there. You have nothing to prove to anyone. There is no single set way to doing ministry, but there are some principles. My one principle for you today is that it is OK to sometimes choose efficiency over balance.

hope it helps

ac   



YM Logo 3886179_origThis weekend I became aware of a few things that makes our youth group night/weekend great. I also can say pretty confidently that valuing these three things change the game at youth group.

Now, these three things can pretty much be talked about in any context, but I want to address them in the context of youth group night, because youth group night is probably the only night you have all of your students gathered in one place (hopefully bringing friends). I would say right after God, your volunteers are probably the next most important people in the room. So I try to remind our volunteers of 3 things very frequently:

  • Their Purpose at youth group – You are not just creepy people holding up the wall in the back.
  • Their Importance at youth group – We couldn’t do youth ministry the way we do it without you.
  • Their Commitment to youth group – We appreciate your commitment to our ministry, and we thank God for you.

Also, as a quick reminder to volunteers, here are 4 things they need to be on youth group night:

  1. Approachable – Be careful not to just hang out with core students during youth group. You can easily become super unapproachable to students who may not be apart of the core crowd. Also, be careful where you hangout before and after service. Ask yourself, “Am I in an area that may make you unapproachable?”          
  2. Available – Don’t allow the program to highjack time you could be spending with students. Don’t get me wrong. The program is super important, but have it dialed in so you can be dialed in to students. A lot of times we are there, but we are so occupied with the program that we end up leaving without making any real connections. When the program becomes the focal point and connections secondary we lose. The program should help foster community not just entertain it. Majority of returners come back because of a connection made. So be available.
  3. Engaged – You set the tone for the ministry. If you’re not excited about what’s going on during youth group, students won’t be excited either. Service starting is not the time for you to sneak off and work on other stuff, even though it is super tempting (I’m learning this myself). Be engaged because students are watching. It’s ok to really worship God during our time of worship. So be active during service as if you were in the adult service. Be engaged.
  4. Intentional – I use this word a lot because being intentional is the game-changer. I can be intentional in the most simple of things, and it makes all the difference. Example: How about circling back to the student you met during greeting time and asking “How was the service and what part affected you the most?” Thinking intentionally is praying for the Holy Spirit’s lead in conversations with students. Youth group with intentionality is next level quality.

My leaders that serve during youth group are on the frontline of our ministry, so it’s important that they are equipped to meet, greet, connect and pray for students. I’m always thinking about their needs and what we can do to help them win. So what would you add to the list or what are you doing to help your leaders win on youth group night? 

 

hope it helps,

ac 

9161284I’ve learned that the things that frustrate us the most as youth pastors/youth worker/volunteer are the things we can’t control in the first place. I believe that one of the top reasons we get frustrated is that we forget to remember the things that should keep us grounded in the mission of what we were called to do. So here are 6 we need to remind ourselves of on a regular basis:

  1. God called you to stewardship over the ministry, not ownership. Frustrated over things not going exactly your way. I think the frustration comes because we start to think the ministry belongs to us, and it doesn’t. You need to run, oversee, and manage out of stewardship, not ownership. It makes a big difference.
  2. Reaching the lost is primary, so don’t be apologetic about it. Frustrated over size. Strategize to reach the lost just as aggressively as the devil does to keep them lost. Stop believing the lie that numbers don’t matter, in the since that your job is to preach and serve the students in the four walls of your ministry only. We are commissioned by Jesus Christ to do both. So give both equal attention, and go aggressively after both. Don’t let the disapproval or criticism of those who preach “my four and no more” stop you.
  3. Leave God’s work to him. Frustrated over hearts not being changed. Know where your work ends and His work begins. Click here for more on this subject!
  4. We minister out of who we are. Frustrated over trying to be two different people. You should be the same person in your ministry life, as you are in your personal life. Inconsistency in the two will lead to frustration and eventually the destruction of the two. If you have to work at this then something is not right. I would find some counsel quickly.
  5. You are not bulletproof. Frustrated with temptation. Remember that you have the potential to screw up just as badly as the people you minister to, so you need to be fed yourself. You should be attending adult services and Bible study. You need accountability all the more being in leadership. Ministry does not exempt us from those things.
  6. It’s about purpose, not ego. Frustrated over the lack of recognition. So many youth ministry leaders fall because their stage is built on praise and applause, instead of purpose and the one true cause which is Christ being glorified in and through the lives of students. Appreciate the praise and applause when given, but build on the purpose and cause. Youth ministry is not a stepping stone for aspiring ministry star power. We have the honor and privilege to serve the church and world at the level that will affect future generations. It should be viewed that way.

When we (and I say “we” because we’ve all been frustrated at one time or another) are frustrated with ministry we should asses our own life, and see whats out of alignment, instead of looking for someone or something to blame. Try sharing this at your next staff meeting, and see what type of feedback you get. Would love to hear about it.

hope it helps,

ac



This week we talk about being new in youth ministry-whether that’s getting a job in youth ministry with no prior experience, or being an intern. Also, Kurt shares 3 things he looks for when hiring a new youth worker. He also wears the distracting garment of wisdom! haha Check it out!

 

Hope it helps

kurt & ac

151333096

My friend Shawn Harrison and I have been tackling what we see as the “Elephants In The Youth Room.”  We had planned on only really putting out four posts on the issue, however, we have been surprised at the traction they have gained. Especially with the conversations from, “The Great Game Debate,” I thought there was one more topic I needed to address.

Last week I had an interesting conversation with my 14-year-old daughter. I asked her, “If you were to set up programming for a youth group, what would it look like?”  

She said she would nix games, although she might have an opening activity or object lesson to draw everyone in. There would be a “worship time,” followed by preaching, and then small groups.

Then I asked her why she would set it up like this. “Well you know I love to connect to God through singing, so that’s why I would have an opening worship time. I also think it helps quiet our hearts.” She went on, “For us introverts, preaching is a good thing. We can listen and learn. We don’t really have to interact with anyone. Then small groups is where we get to ask questions and really go deep.”

Then she sat and thought for a second. (I thought we were going to change topics.)  “You know now that I think about it, the worship time really depends on whether or not there is a decent worship team that works.  If it’s just some guy with a guitar who can’t sing, then that’s just distracting and awkward.”  

We dove into this for a few moments. She has tried a number of youth programs in addition to the ones I run. It gives her a chance to experience a setting beyond where her parents are the leaders and gives her the chance to “just go to youth group.”

As she thought about the different places she has tried, attended at the invite of a friend or even participated in she noted something,“It’s like there is a formula for how you do youth group, and you know it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.”  There were people who weren’t great at preaching, and it lost her attention. Perhaps, that’s just a personality issue.

However, she had attended a couple of groups where the “worship time” was just plain painful. She posed the question, “If it doesn’t work for a group, Do we have to sing?” One guy sang alone and was always off key. In another group, they played musical tracks and that felt weird to her.

So here it is. Does there HAVE to be the “youth group” that includes a guitar and singing if you don’t have the capacity?  I think if you have a student run worship band or a leader who enjoys to offer this, it might be different. However, who decided that singing is what makes for great youth programming?

I think some students love it and others hate it. In my own home, my boy would love it if there were only small groups and that’s it.  Is it a way to include different types of kids, or do we offer it because “that’s what you do?”

Does it exclude our “unchurched” students as they have no clue what the song is or how to follow along, especially if there isn’t even a PowerPoint?

Could there be “seasons” in your ministry when you have no one to lead that you get rid of this time?

We call it “worship,” however, I think we all know that isn’t always what it is. Worship goes far beyond a time that includes music. If no one is actually “worshiping” during this time could/should you nix it?

Did you get rid of this time already? If yes, what do you do?

I think my daughter’s question is a valid one, “If it isn’t working,  Do we have to sing?”  A better question might be, “Do we have to follow the youth group formula at all?”

What do you think?

Leneita

@leneitafix