Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The aim of our charge in youth ministry - 1

1 Timothy 1:5 "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." - ESV

Paul's words to Timothy have spoken life into my soul this week and I'd like to take four posts to reflect on this amazing verse and how it relates to youth ministry.

The aim of our charge, the end goal, the objective is love. Our students will know us by our love. And this love is a love of choice. It's an agape kind of love, a love that is self-sacrificing and willing to die for the other. Agape love gives, it doesn't get. Our youth ministries will start becoming places of transformation when we, as leaders, start taking dead aim at willing ourselves to love the students who gather with us each week.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Youth ministry should be fraught with danger

"Looking for Jesus is an undertaking fraught with danger… The closer you get to finding him, the higher the stakes become. He is no mere passive object to be circled and appraised like a piece of sculpture. You look at him and he looks back. You may begin the search for Jesus with your own agenda, but be warned, he has one too. As the disciples discovered, you pay a price for finding Jesus. He may in fact, one day turn to you, as he did to those weak first-century followers, and ask, ―But you. – who do you say that I am?" (Virginia S Owens, Looking For Jesus, pg. 256)

It's an unbelievable privilege to get the chance to walk alongside students as a companion on their journey to find Christ which is fraught with danger. Too often our students see those around them as dangerous, but Owens forces us to think about the dangerous One. Is my youth ministry fraught with this dangerous picture of Jesus? On Wednesdays? On Sundays? In my conversations with students? Where is the balance between a dangerous Jesus and one who's yoke is easy and burden is light? Why is it easier to talk about the yoke and not about the justice?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Join my group...DIE for His Kingdom

I am becoming more convinced every day that we need to change some of our thinking as we lead our student ministries. One of the things I think we need to change is the "join my group" mentality. It's easy to default and program your ministry with the mentality that the end goal is to get students to join our groups. We have visitor cards, follow up phone calls, emails, a message on Facebook, calling their friend who is already a part of our group and checking in to see how it went, calling the visitors parents and introducing ourselves, introducing them to new students who have similar interests or go to the same school, put them in a small group, take them to play laser quest and teach them the Bible, etc... I believe all of this is necessary, but it can't be where we stop. I know we need to help students find a place to belong, but I think the "join my group" attitude puts the focus in the wrong place.

It's not about joining my group, it's about dying for His Kingdom. While I believe belonging is a huge piece of a healthy youth ministry we have to start finding ways of helping students belong to the Kingdom of God. It's not about us, it's about Jesus Christ. Belonging to the Kingdom of God starts with us saying "NO" to ourselves, the sacrifice of carrying a cross, and a decision to follow Jesus. Jesus said, "If anyone wants to come after me he must DENY himself, take up his cross and follow me." We need to start asking ourselves, "What am I doing in my ministry that is calling our students to die for the Kingdom of God?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Awkward student ministry

Today I revisited an excellent post by Seth GodinAwkward. He suggests it’s his new favorite word and I am inclined to think that every student ministry leader should embrace this word and make it their new favorite word too!

“The reason we need to be in search of awkward is that awkward is the barrier between us and excellence, between where we are and the remarkable. If it were easy, everyone would have done it already, and it wouldn't be worth the effort.”

I want to be a student ministry leader who doesn't just react to awkward moments, but looks for them in my personal life, the life of my family and the life of my ministry. I want to search for it with my wife, kids, student ministry leaders, pastoral staff, and friends. Could "awkward" be a means of sanctification?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Enroute & Athanasius

"He became what we are that He might make us what He is." - Saint Athanasius, 295-373

I can't stop thinking about this simple phrase after I spent time with Matt Wilks, Doug Jones and Chris Folmsbee this past week discussing what a transformational youth ministry looks like. A group of us wrestled through the final Enroute training manual that Sonlife is launching this fall.

Enroute is a one-day training event designed to look at the life of Jesus in the context of the story of God to help youth workers create a transformational youth ministry in their own context. I am so excited for my leaders to wrestle through this material on October 11th!

I think this simple phrase is going to become a short prayer I pray to help remind me about what transformational youth ministry is all about.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Experiential learning

My good friend Chris Folmsbee over at New Kind of Youth Ministry sent me to this article on experiential learning from David A. Kolb this week while we were together. David A. Kolb (with Roger Fry) created a model of learning that contains four elements: concrete experience, observation and reflection, the formation of abstract concepts and testing in new situations. Here's the chart:

I am really wrestling through what implications this chart has on how I "do" student ministry. Kolb suggests that the learning cycle can begin at any one of these four points, but learning is most effective if it begins with a concrete experience. This model is challenging me to start figuring out how to make the shift from being a "teacher-centered teacher" to a "learner-centered teacher" on Sunday mornings. Any thoughts?

Monday, September 15, 2008

National Summit

I am in Minnesota this whole week for our National Leadership Summit for the EFCA. I am excited for the next two days as everyone from all of the national ministry teams will be together learning from a couple of great speakers. In addition to these large group plenary sessions I'll also be hanging out with the student ministry folks. Tonight we kicked off our time by welcoming our new Director, Shane Stacey! To welcome him we each gave him a verse and spoke a blessing to him. It was awesome to hear each individual share from their heart the Word of God. Finally, I'll finish off the week with the fellas from Sonlife and get caught up on the brand new Enroute! It's going to be a great week!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Chaperones need not apply

I don't need chaperones to supervise our students when we gather on Wednesday nights. I need shepherds. I want shepherds. Chaperones need not apply. I want a group of adult leaders who see themselves as spiritual guides. I want a group of leaders that won't stand up against the wall watching. I want a group of leaders that will walk among our students. I want our leaders to wrestle with Peter's challenge in his first book,

“2Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” - 1 Peter 5:2-4

There's way to much on the line and very little time to accomplish it! I am so thankful for the amazing group of shepherds our high school students have at SGC!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Biblical theology for conflict resolution

Below is what our presenters offer as the 4 G's of creating a biblical theology for conflict resolution. It's a little different than the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em toy my boys played with last year.

Glorify God - 1 Corinthians 10:31
- How can I please and honor God in this situation?

Get the Log Out - Matthew 7:5
- How can I show Jesus at work in me by taking responsibility for my contribution to the conflict?

Gently - Galatians 6:1
- How can I lovingly serve others by helping them take responsibility for their contribution to this conflict?

Go and be Reconciled - Matthew 5:23-24
- How can I demonstrate the forgiveness of God?

Do our student ministries have a biblical theology for conflict resolution? With our paid staff? With our volunteers? With our parents? In our equipping of our students? Are we being proactive or reactive when it comes to dealing with conflict? Do we wait for it to get to the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em stage? I am grateful to have this on my plate to wrestle with this fall. What does your biblical theology for conflict resolution look like?

What training did you lack?

Today I am sitting through a presentation from Peacemaker Ministries at our annual fall summit for the Rocky Mountain District. Our presenter is talking about the nature of conflict right now.

He's presenting these facts:
1. Thousands of Christians leave the church due to unresolved conflict.
2. 35.5% divorce rater in the church matches that of the world.
3. Christians spend multiple millions of dollars annually suing one another.
4. 40% of pastors experience "serious conflict" as least once a month.
5. 1,500 pastors quit every month due to conflict and burnout.

He makes this statement, "When asked what training was most lacking in Seminary or Bible college most pastors answered - CONFLICT MANAGEMENT."

I am curious, what training did you lack in your Seminary or Bible college? The first thing I think of is how to make and manage a budget. I had no clue what I was doing. Some would say I still don't!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Who will you present?

This past weekend my senior pastor presented these verses in his sermon in the context of what should our life purposes be. These are his purposes and ours.

Ephesians 5:25-27 ―Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

1 Peter 3:18 ―For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.

2 Corinthians 4:14 ―We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence.

Colossians 1:22 ―But now he has reconciled you by Christ‘s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…

Jude 1:24 ―To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—

2 Corinthians 11:2 ―I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

Colossians 1:28 ―We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

I can't think of a better motivation for doing student ministry. Each encounter with a student is eternal work! Who will you present?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Betting on change

“There are two kinds of organizations. One kind likes to be on the cutting edge, to do what hasn’t been done before, to embrace the new. The other kind fears that, and holds back to allow someone else to go first. Betting on change is always the safest bet available.” - excerpt from The Big Moo, Seth Godin

How is change the safest bet? What should change? How do you know if your church is embracing the new or holding back? In the context of youth ministry, what needs to change? I am sure the list could be huge. I'll get it started and I would love to hear your thoughts.

The first change we need to make in student ministry is...to quit calling students to join our groups and start calling them to die for His Kingdom.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Dora is Sticky

My daughter loves Dora the Explorer! Why? Because Dora is sticky. I love watching it with her because she doesn't stop doing something. She's standing up, repeating words, learning Spanish, turning in circles and sitting down.

This show reminds me of a GREAT book I read a few years ago, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book he uses Blue's Clues and Sesame Street as a case study for the tipping point. His point was there was something about Blue's Clues that caused it to be more popular (the tipping point) than Sesame Street. Dora is similar to Blue's Clues.

One of things he pointed out is that Blue's Clues is stickier than Sesame Street. The stickiness factor is what I see when I watch Adah. The program gives Adah multiple ways to learn, to grab a hold of the message they are trying to communicate. The show is sticky! Adah is increasing her vocabulary, learning motions, talking to the T.V., finding things on the map, invited to join Dora on a journey...you name it! - Aside - another blog for another time - the concept of children learning that cartoons are a journey to be invited on and not a program to watch! Hmmm....

And it's true. Adah is only interested in Sesame Street at all if Elmo comes on. She loses interest because it doesn't have as many sticking points as Dora! Big Bird scares her!

The stickiness factor! Just this simple concept can improve leading a small group, large group teaching, making a presentation, a conversation you are have with an employer, or the way you parent. I think we need to be continually be thinking about the stickiness factor in all that we are doing! Especially when we are leading a small group or teaching. We can't just assume that a great introduction is going to give someone a reason to listen for 30 minutes. We need to be sticky all throughout our message or small group time. And what I love about this concept is that it is little changes that make the biggest difference. It's not making huge changes for a huge impact.

If we don't care about the stickiness factor now, you can bet we will when the class of 2024 (the potential graduating year for Adah) become adults because they are growing up in a sticky world! I am looking forward to making it a point to be continually evaluating how sticky I am in all the areas of my life and ministry.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Deeper yes

It's easy to say "no!" when there's a deeper "yes!" burning inside - Stephen Covey from First Things First

What's the deeper "yes!" of your student ministry? Family? Life? Legacy? I want to be in a place where it's easy to say "no!"

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I need your help

“I need your help in keeping my beliefs sharp and accurate and intact. I don’t trust myself; my emotions seduce me into infidelities. I know I am launched on a difficult and dangerous act of faith in life, and there are strong influences intent on diluting or destroying it. I need your help. Let God speak through you into all the different parts and stages of my life – in my work and play, with my children and my parents, at birth and death, in my celebrations and sorrows, on those days when morning breaks over me in a wash of sunshine, and those other days that are all drizzle.

This isn’t the only task in the life of faith, there are other things to be done but this task is vitally important for my soul. One more thing: This is not a temporary job assignment for you but a way of life that I need lived out day after day. I know you are launched on the same difficult belief venture in the same dangerous world as I am. I know your emotions are as fickle as mine and your mind is a tricky as mine. That is why I am asking you to commit to this. I know there will be days and months, maybe even years, when I won’t feel like believing anything and won’t want to hear it from you. And I know there will be days and weeks and even years when you won’t feel like saying it. It doesn’t matter. Do it. You are called to this role in my life.

Promise right now that you won’t give in to my reluctance and resistance. You are not the servant of my changing desires or my time-conditioned understanding of my needs, or my secularized hopes for something better.

There are many other things to be done in this wrecked world, and I am responsible for doing at least some of them, but if I am not reminded of the foundational realities with which we are dealing – God, kingdom, gospel – I am going to end up living a futile, fantasy life. Your task, in my life, is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, and speaking the biblical words of command and promise and invitation.” Will you fight for my soul?

(Paraphrased from Peterson The Contemplative Pastor)

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Waiting to be wanted

"I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain." AW Tozer from The Pursuit of God.

I am praying that our complacent students will have a mighty longing after God this fall as we gather in our i2i groups and learn from the Minor Prophets.