Monthly Archives: February 2012
I am leaving town for the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in just a few days. I am in that mode right now where I am excited for the trip, but need to be focused on everything I must get done before I leave.
By taking a few minutes and writing down why I am looking forward to it so much I hope it will enable me to focus on everything else…we will see. Top 3 reasons I can’t wait for SYMC.
1. I get to spend several days in community with like minded people
Youth ministry is something that is not easily understood unless you are in it. For these few days most everyone I will interact with will understand the world I live in. I get to see some old friends. I get to meet several people face-to-face that I only know through a screen (from blogging and social network sites). And I will meet a ton of new people, all of which love youth ministry and are involved with it in some way.
2. I will get pored into emotionally, professionally, and Spiritually
Yesterday one of the guys in my small group asked what I do at a conference. I told him I go to classes, hear some speakers, and enjoy some great music. The look on his face said “why would you want to go do that, we do that here.” I then said “it is like going to church for me, because when you work at a church you don’t get to just go very often.” He understood that reasoning.
3. I will get to serve and give back.
I am volunteering at the conference to help with some of the behind the scenes stuff. My name is not on any flyer, I am not formally teaching anything, and no one will notice when I enter a room. But I know that over my last decade of being pored into and ministered to at conferences there were a ton of people helping to make that possible for me. I also have had several casual conversations with people wiser and more experienced than me that has helped me more than any of them realized. I am excited and honored to be able to return the favor this next week.
So there are a few reasons why I can’t wait to go to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, are you going to be there? If so please make sure I get to meet you. Why are you excited?
If you are not yet registered click here and get registered!
Ok…now back to my to do list.
I have written several times already about my quest toward promoting spiritual transformation and not just conforming to a Jesus standard. It was the 10 transformation stops as presented by George Barna that first got me thinking this way, and God has continued to open my eyes and heart to new ways of doing youth ministry.
I encourage you to go back and read a few earlier posts if you missed them: Conform or Transform gives a scriptural basis and Conform or Transform 2 describes one my biggest program experiments with helping students toward transformation.
I talked today with a great friend and fellow youth worker about his weekend retreat. Last weekend he “borrowed” my ideas, adapted them to his group, and took the same risk with his retreat as I did with mine. God worked in similar ways, and just as awesome ways within his group as He did in mine.
Last night at our regular mid-week youth program, we did something out of the norm for us, and once again trusted God to show up and do work only He could do. Once again God showed up in amazing ways as students and adult leaders nailed stuff to a cross they needed to leave with Jesus so they could be healed.
As I see this new wind blowing within myself and within youth ministry there are a few things I have noticed about myself and the ministry God has asked me to lead.
1. It is hard for me to not program every minute
One of the things I have been challenged to do is to do my role and then get out of the way; if I am talking the whole time there is no chance for God to speak. My friend and I both had the same struggle with our retreats–that we didn’t speak every time we could have. But since we didn’t, God did.
2. I make things more complicated than they need to be
During a study series on the Holy Spirit Jim Cymbala talked about how we can hinder the Holy Spirit by doing too much within our programming. He also mentioned how one of their most powerful programs they run at the Brooklyn Tabernacle is Tuesday night prayer meeting which involves nothing but gathering and praying. I have thought about this concept a lot, and because of #1 I know I am guilty of this.
3. These ideas really aren’t new
Much of what I feel like are “program risks” today are things I did by accident when I was just starting out in youth ministry. Yes, I am doing them a bit more on purpose and with stronger reasons now, but I have done many of these things before several years ago. I would like to think my pride and ego had nothing to do with me complicating these simple ideas in the first place…but…yeah…
Revelation 2:3-5 (NIV) 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first
As I continue to read and pray and grow as a leader my hope is you can continue to do the same right along with me. I most definitely don’t have much of this figured out, but I hope we can learn together. What is God showing you about Spiritual transformation and how we can help God do it?
Invite students into your daily life.
I don’t really remember who said it, but when I heard the advice to take a student with you grocery shopping my first thought was not “of course, I will do that tomorrow!” Yet as I look back over the years my wife and I have been involved in youth ministry, many significant conversations and ministry moments have happened during menial daily life kinds of times.
Recently I have learned this lesson all over again. I am currently coaching one of my son’s basketball team. He is five, so I am not even sure if you can classify it as coaching… Two freshman basketball players from our church have helped out with the team a few times. These are both great guys and I love hanging out with them, but I was shocked when they told me they would love to help. I was even more shocked when they thanked me for letting them help. Shocked doesn’t even describe my reaction when I found out one of them got up at 5:30am on a Saturday to clean his room and do other chores so he could come help at an 8am game.
In recent months my relationship with these guys has grown, and so has their faith. Neither of them had planned to go to winter camp until after our conversation in the car on the way to basketball practice. They both went and they both grew closer to God that weekend. I realize I am not giving you any profound advice or 5 steps toward explosive growth, but I can say relational ministry works. I also know that it is easy to overlook simple things like inviting a student to go with you while you run errands which is why I need reminded of those things from time to time. I just thought you might need reminded too.
When it comes to planning and running youth ministry programs make sure that you ask the question “Who?” If your answer to this question is “teenagers” then you are likely not doing as good of a job as you could be. Look at the familiar words of Jesus in the great commission:
Matthew 28:19 – 20 (NLT) “19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Italics added)
Did you notice that Jesus gives us four different answers to the question of who? Nations, new disciples, disciples, and teachers. Knowing this fact gives us a few things we need to do as we plan what we are going to do.
1. You need to have a specific target audience every time you plan an event or program.
Can you reach all four of these people in one program? Yes you could, but not very well because it would be surface for all four of them, it is just too wide of a target. However, this doesn’t mean you need to have a weekly program for all four of them either. Perhaps you target nations students two or three times a year with a special event that teacher students plan and run while you target new disciples and disciple level students on Sunday mornings. How you decide to do it should match your current ministry context, which leads into point number two.
2. Evaluate what type of students are already in your group.
Your church might already be full of only nations and new disciple level students. If that is the case then plan for that level; something like a deep study Sunday school or student leadership program is not going to be very successful. If your group is filled with disciple and teacher level students it is most likely not a “visitor friendly environment”. Most churches and ministries naturally tend to be heavy in one or two of these levels. First figure out what you already have and minister to that level. Then start thinking of how you can strengthen the weak ones.
In order to have a healthy, well rounded, and growing ministry you need to be strong in all four levels. Most churches and ministries, mine included, cannot say this about their group. But if you ask the right questions, plan according to the honest answers, and follow God’s leading it can happen.
*I talk extensively about this concept in my book which hopefully will hit iBooks, Kindle, and Nook in a few months, please pray with me as I work toward this goal.
Exactly 11 years ago today I proposed to Maureen. I remember how nervous I was on that night, not really sure why. I was 100% sure she was the one God wanted me to share my life with and 100% sure she would say yes. Now all these years, 3 kids, and lots of ups and downs later I am still just as sure she is a gift from God to me.
This week I assigned my small group to read Proverbs 31, I thought it would be fitting considering it is valentines day and all. This morning as I read it I thanked God over and over for putting a “Proverbs 31 girl” in my life.
Proverbs 31:20 (NIV) “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
Whether you are poor or needy or even just in our life in some way Maureen will provide hospitality for you, it is truly one of her Spiritual gifts to make people feel special.
Proverbs 31:25 (NIV) “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
Maureen is very good at what she does and I am very proud of her accomplishments. Her strength and dignity are a worthy example for every one of her kindergarten students, youth small group girls, and friends. She also likes to laugh and have fun (even though that is really not what this verse is referring to) and I love that about her too.
Proverbs 31:26 (NIV) “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue”
I feel so honored to have Maureen as a ministry partner. Yes, she does help me A LOT within youth ministry, but she ministers to people in every aspect of her life. Co-workers, her students, her friends, her family members, and most anyone she interacts with she provides Godly counsel and wisdom to.
Proverbs 31:28 (NIV) “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
She is a wonderful mother to our boys, I hope they realize how blessed they are to have the mother they do (I know they do). As you can see, I do praise her, although not as much as I should…
I could honestly do this for the entire chapter, but I think you get the idea… but I do have one more verse to share.
Proverbs 31:30 (NIV) “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Maureen is charming, and she is very beautiful. But I know she loves God with all her heart, I see it in her every day, and that is what I love the most about her.
I love you more than words can say Maureen, and thank God for you every day. Happy Valentines Day!
If you have a Proverbs 31 girl in your life I encourage you to tell her how much she means to you and why.
I will start off by saying I really enjoyed reading this book. I am not a big “reader” so I usually only read to develop and learn for my faith and my job, this book being related to my personal life was a breath of fresh air for me.
As I read Ben’s observations and personal experiences surrounding his own kids, his victories and his frustrations, I felt like I was reading my own inner thoughts. It brought great comfort to me realizing that I am not alone in my feelings as I raise young kids. From mourning my pre-kid life, to the packed schedules, the family meals, and the funny conversations I felt like Ben was inviting me onto a team with him as we both strive for a win as parents.
A highlight for me in the book was the questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. They are great questions and really help to move my mind from Ben’s stories to my own experiences.
I did feel like the book was a bit of a slow starter, but stick with it through the last few chapters of section one. Once you make it to section two and through the end it moves quicker and is very practical.
Overall this book is definitely worth your time, if you have young kids join the team!
If you want to check out more of Ben’s writing click here to read his blog “Average Youth Ministry”.
I, like many people, made a commitment at the start of the year to start working out and get in better shape. I have had several gym memberships over the years and they have all followed the same pattern:
1. I join and am excited and motivated, and go more often than is reasonable.
2. Once the newness wears off I go a few times a week and am quick to let things “get in the way” of going
3. A “bigger excuse” comes up and I quit going completely, I then donate to the gym for several months
4. I stop donating to the gym and vow to never waste that money again (until I start over at #1)
The last time I made it to number four was when I wrecked my dirt bike and broke my back, arm, and sternum (I think that was a pretty good excuse to abandon the gym…), please ignore the fact I had been on number 3 for many months before I crashed. That was a year and a half ago. I have not worked out since, not even physical therapy, which is exactly why I need to be working out, my back muscles have never been strengthened since being in the back brace.
In an attempt to not repeat this cycle once again, I borrowed the P90X program from a family member and started working out at home. I also thought through it a bit more than normal and started slow, finding a rhythm and schedule that fits into my weekly routine and is hopefully more sustainable. I am working out 3 to 4 times a week and trying to make better choices on what I eat (until my wife makes another cake). I have named my workout plan P90W, since I am falling short of the X part of P90X.
So far I have done pretty good, but I find myself slipping toward #2. Here are a few verses that are helping me stick to my plan, I hope they can help you too.
Ecclesiastes 7:18 (NIV) “Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes”
I admire people that can be committed to the entire P90X program, or others that are just as extreme and effective. But I know that I can’t do that and actually stick with it for very long. It is easy to get in the mentality that if I don’t do something all the way, to an extreme, that I shouldn’t do it at all. As I look at my P90W plan, and even the results I see already I know that it is better than doing nothing at all. I know I won’t have the dramatic before and after pictures, but I am getting in better shape.
Proverbs 14:4 (NIV) “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest. ”
An empty manger means no work is required. I don’t have to put forth any effort in caring for the animal, but it also means I don’t get any results either. By taking care of the ox (getting the manger dirty) and staying committed to the work that I and the ox can accomplish I get the wanted results. Just like feeding the ox does not instantly produce an abundant harvest I won’t get instant results from P90W. But if I put in the work and stay committed I will eventually reap the reward of being in better shape.
What changes have you committed to this year? How are you doing with them? Did you set yourself up for failure or were you honest with yourself from the start? I am curious to know how you are doing, so please let me know!