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

imagesI firmly believe that ultimately as leaders we lead by what we do whether we want to or not. We can be leading and speaking in one lane and living in another. And little do we know our that students over time do more of what we do and less of what we say. So it’s important we continue to grow spiritually, following Christ as we lead others. It’s important that we are investing in areas of leadership that we would love to transfer on to our students and allowing those things to live out in our own lives first. Then as we lead, teach and mentor, we will see those things lived out in the lives of our students. So here are a few things I want lived out in my life so they can be lived out in the lives of the students that God has trusted me with:

  1. Perseverance - A lot of times God calls us to do things that challenge us to trust Him. He challenges us to say I can, when we think we can’t. So, we need to model perseverance in trusting God’s timing and calling instead of our own.
  2. Humility - We need to remember that James 4:10 says if we humble ourselves then God will exalt us. We also need to remember that Luke 14:11 says if we try and exalt ourselves we will be humbled. Being humble is a state of being and not a position. Humility is not selling everything you own and living as a poor person. That is actually pride, because you are trying to buy humility by doing something. We need to model humility, which is simply knowing that God’s grace has you where you are and nothing else. We must live that out.
  3. Character – Your character shapes the leader you become, so they need to know that building Godly character is mission critical. You lead out the character you’ve developed or the lack there of. We need to model Godly character.
  4. Patience – They need to understand that patience is more then just waiting. Having patience helps you lead and make decisions with balance. Patience is really a lost art in our culture today. Amazon is the perfect example: They have a button called “Buy Now With One Click.” Just click it right there on the same page and buy it. They want to make sure you don’t have time to think if this a smart choice. They want to help you buy on impulse verses your purchase being wisely thought out. The faster we can have it, do it, use it, own it, see it, take it and eat it, the better. Patience helps you lead and make decisions apart from your impulses. We need to model patience.
  5. Compassion – One reason why compassion is important in leadership is because Jesus modeled it. Matt 14:14 says, “When Jesus saw the crowd He was moved with compassion and healed those who were sick.” There are so many takeaways from this verse, but the one that sticks out the most is that compassion has the ability to move you into doing the unthinkable. It takes a courageous, bold person to be compassionate. I can just imagine Jesus freaking people out completely as He walks through just healing people left and right. We need to model compassion.

We can teach these things a million different ways with great conviction, but the real question is…can we live these things out? It’s not enough to just teach. So what am I missing on this list? Which one is the hardest for you to live out?

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

god-is-in-control_4534_1440x9001. It’s all ministry.

2. God’s in control.

These two phrases have had me thinking a lot about how little I have to do with how God uses me, and how there ‘s more to ministry then what we traditionally understand. God has been showing me that there is no limits to what He can do in us and through us. I’ve had situations where a student shared with me that 8 months ago that a hug I don’t remember giving was the catalyst for his life change. I’ve also received text messages about how something I said in passing changed a students life for the better. I had a conversation with a student about an invitation they casually received from a leader to go to summer camp. Well, that ended up kick-starting the students walk with Christ. I’ve had students share their testimony with their parents, and their parents come to Christ through it. This is why the phrase it’s all ministry and God’s in control exists. And if you think about your ministry I sure you can think of some stories of unorthodox life change.

Sometimes when we don’t recognize these two phrases, we run into issues and begin to think:

  • I need to make this program, message, song, conversation and event perfect because that’s how students come to christ when things are done right and perfect.
  • Let’s make God do more by praying harder.
  • If only I can put the right words together they will change.
  • It’s just a conversation, smile, high five, coffee, remembered name, hug, ride, invite, or Facebook/Twitter/Instagram post of encouragement. None of that is real ministry.

When you understand that everything we do as youth workers is ministry and God’s in control you begin to think:

  • I’m going to be intentional about the small things because I know God uses them.
  • I will strive to do my best and allow God to do the rest. It may not be perfect, but it will be worth it, If I serve from my heart.
  • God is not a genie in a bottle. So I won’t petition HIm as if He is.
  • The Holy Spirit will give me the words to say. I just need to surrender to him and allow him to use me.
  • God help me see every opportunity I have to share my faith and your love.

I used to think that God worked in a certain way, because of tradition, I used to believe that ministry was confined to a certain area of life. I was sadly mistaken. God wants to use every part of our life. He wants use our strengthens, weaknesses, failures and wins. He won’t let anything go to waste. Also, we must come to terms with the fact that ultimately God is in control. I would even say rest in the fact that God is in control, because it’s a good thing. Would love to hear how you are stretching yourself to think outside the box when it comes to ministry. Also, what does (God’s in control) mean to you?

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 

newThis year with my small group I decided to try somethings that I didn’t do with my last group, and boy has it paid off. So I thought I’d share with you five things that I’ve tried this year in my small group that has brought them closer, and has also made them more interested in their life with God. Now, maybe a lot of you are already doing these things, and if that is the case, keep going strong. But if not, I encourage you to try a few:

  1. Remove all social media devices. Make sure you let parents know that this is happening and how important it is that their child cooperates with this rule. Let them know your phone will be on if they need to reach their child.
  2. Don’t just refer to a verse or narrative, read it with your students. I’m using bible narratives to teach the lesson. And we are literally reading through the whole narrative. The first five weeks we read through the life of David. Every week hands would go up with questions and comments because even though they had heard and some had briefly been taught about it, they had never completely read through it. So whatever topic you are talking about find a bible narrative to help you explain God’s truth. Example: Topic: trusting in God – Bibilcal Narrative: Story of Joseph, Moses, Abraham or etc… Read through them it will change your group.
  3. Let them pray for each other. I started this thing where I would pair the guys up with each other at the end of group and have them go off and pray for each other. Sometimes we will pray together and I will have a few guys pray and then I will close the prayer when they are done. The idea is to get them thinking and praying not just about their prayer request but about the lives of their small group brothers.
  4. Eat the dinner or snack of the night together. I want to model that we are more than just a group of guys meeting one night a week. We are family and we grow closer by eating together. This is also an area I want to be even more strategic with. Like being intentional about what we discuss during snack or dinner time. Maybe share stories about our families.
  5. Don’t just lecture but facilitate. Students respond better when it’s a conversation, rather than discovering truth by being force fed truth through a 40min lecture. Think about the fact that they’ve already been in school and have been lectured like crazy by 5 or 6 different teachers. So get some questions together and make it a conversation. Remember students don’t need deep they need principles that apply to the things they are facing in life on a daily basis.

There are a million more that I could add, but I just wanted to share a few with you that I believe are extremely important in developing a small group that is  growing with God and each other. Would love to hear what you are doing.

hope it helps

ac



It never ceases to amaze me that out of all the stuff that is going on in the world celebrities and famous people are talked about and televised more than anything else when it comes to the news. And I get the fact that it comes with being a celebrity or famous, but what I don’t like is we’ve become a culture hooked on drama.

So once again Bieber is in the news for breaking the law and Richard Sherman is in the news for throwing out how great he is in someone’s face. Now, the one thing I believe these two have in common is the same thing that I believe we all have in common, and that is the ability to fall prey to stupidity.

When I heard about Bieber/Sherman I immediately thought about my students and how they will respond to this news. I know that they are reading and watching drama like this unfold. There friends via social media are all talking about it. I can hear the football team defending Richard Sherman. And I’m sure the debate on Justin Bieber is going something to the tune of Justin Bieber is stupid or poor Justin Bieber. The debate on Richard Sherman is he’s either a loud mouth bully or he has the right to speak his mind since he’s a Stanford graduate and pro bowler. And since I know my students I ask myself the question how can I use what happens in today’s culture to help my students grow more like Christ. Here’s what I would share with my students.

  1. No one has the right to judge the person who falls prey to stupidity, because we would totally be unrightfully casting the first stone. We’ve all said stuff we wish we could take back now, but we weren’t thinking that during the time we were saying and doing the stupid stuff.
  2. Who you are in secret will come to light. It’s just a matter of time before it shows. So be who you want to be without the limelight. whether your limelight is just the kids at your school or fifty million people across the globe.
  3. Don’t be concerned with just the stupid acts you commit or Justin Bieber/Richard Sherman commit, but be concerned with why the act was committed in the first place because often times there you find the root of the problem which will lead to a solution that will bring about real change.
  4. Choosing the people you surround yourself with is one the most important decisions you’ll ever make. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character”. Show me the people you hangout with and I can pretty much tell you where you’ll most likely end up.
  5. There is a verse in Ephesians that says “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.”(Eph 5:17) this verse really sums up what I would share with my students who found themselves stuck in stupidity. I would say Don’t just do what God wants you to do, but also understand why He wants you to do it. Focus more on understanding God’s plan for your life and less on trying not to act thoughtlessly. And you will see yourself falling less into stupidity. And even if you do fall it will be way different then the times before you made God’s plan a priority.

I guess my thought to you as youth leaders is based on Ephesians 5:16 which says, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” Now, I know some of you scholars may say, “Well contextually the writer wasn’t thinking in this vein,” in which my reply to you would be “shut up…I’m the Richard Sherman of youth ministry, you better recognize” hahahaha just kidding.

I think I can make a case that Jesus followed this verse not only in how he lived, but also in how did ministry. I will probably forever ring the bell that youth workers who minister ignorant of culture are most likely not doing very sustainable youth ministry. So I would say never be afraid to use culture to teach biblical truth.

Would love for you to add your thoughts. GO!!!!!!

hope it helps,

ac

The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is coming up March 7th-10th and you do not want to miss out. Register (here) Check out Kurt and I as we discuss what makes SYMC so great!!!! You will also learn of our great love for dates!!!! ha Enjoy!!

 

kurt & ac