Monthly Archives: March 2012
I am continuing to work on my book for it’s release. This past week I made a big step toward this end, by officially starting “In His Grip Publishing”. It really is not as grandiose as it sounds, my only intention for this small business is to publish my own books, but it is exciting none-the-less.
Over the past week or so I have had a similar conversation several times about how our church is taking steps to have all of our different ministries working together for the same goal and promote inter-generational ministry. These conversations have led me to giving you another excerpt from my book, this is from chapter 5:
Youth ministry tradition promotes the typical view that teenagers need their own service, their own music, and their own programs. When a family attends church on Sunday morning, the current tradition has everyone parting ways once they get out of the car. Each family member attends his or her own age-specific service for an hour, and then meets back at the car to go home. In past years, church tradition followed the format of each person attending an age-specific Sunday school class, and then the whole family went to the main worship service together. I understand why tradition moved us away from Sunday school; we have not done it for years in my church. But tradition didn’t just move away from Sunday school, it eliminated the multi-generational interaction within the church and created a number of age-specific, independent congregations that share a facility. The side effects of the tradition shift are deeply affecting the entire body of Christ.
Teenagers are affected because they love that church is flashy and entertaining, plays their kind of music, and matches pop culture as much as possible. But, inevitably, the worst thing possible for them happens: they get too old to attend. And once they graduate, they are expected to jump right into the adult programs. Yet they have never attended adult programs before and the people are different, the music is different, the messages are boring and not applicable to their everyday life (you and I know that’s not really true, but they don’t).
Now they are faced with one of two options: stop going or change the adult service to be more like the youth service. Option number one is the easiest, and the mass exodus after graduation starts to be part of the new tradition. Or they follow option number two which in turn makes everyone else involved in the adult service upset, and what we now know as the “worship war” begins.
The adults in the church are also affected by this trend, and it is deeper than just fighting for the hymnal to stay in the sanctuary. It drastically changes how they view the teenagers in the church. With everyone split in different rooms, most adults never see or interact with a teenager while at church. They never hear the same message, sing the same songs, or see a teenager’s faith grow. The perception becomes that we push the teenagers into the basement or the extra room and entertain them until they are ready for real church. This perception reduces teenagers to the “church of tomorrow.”
If you have been a youth worker for more than a day, you already know that some teenagers have a stronger and more mature faith than many adults. But with the “church of tomorrow” label stamped on their forehead, their roles in the church get reduced to manual labor or babysitting. I have no issue with youth doing these jobs. The problem arises when all the tasks that no one else wants to do get thrown down to the youth in the name of service—especially when it is ok for teenagers to miss out on church so the adults don’t have to.
If every ministry runs independently of each other, what you end up with is a bunch of little churches meeting in the same building fighting against other church ministries for facility, budget, and volunteers.
Hello everyone, I am still here!
You might have noticed, or perhaps not, but I have not posted very much in the past 3 weeks or so. I do have some reasons why that is, so if you care keep reading and I will explain them to you.
1. I have re-organized my priority list
The past several weeks I have done a lot of self evaluation and reflection. I realized I had gotten a few things out of place on my personal priority list and have adjusted my life accordingly. Due to these adjustments I have not had as much time to sit down and write. Relationships take a lot of time.
2. I have been busy
Not only do relationships take a lot of time, but it seems like everything else does too lately. My life tends to run at a fairly quick pace, but lately it seems to be even busier. Through all the craziness I do see God working, and in some pretty amazing ways. Which does bring me to my next point…
3. My book will be out soon
What time I have had to work on writing has been dominated by getting my book ready for it’s release. I do not know exactly when that will be but it is moving forward. I am so very excited to see the last 2 years of my life getting closer and closer to a printed book in my hand. I can’t wait for you to have that book in your hand!
I am still here, I do have a few blog posts still swirling around in my head and my heart that I hope will make it on here soon. Thanks for sticking with me!
This post was originally publish as a guest post for Engaging the Shadows of Youth Ministry. Thanks Matt Murphy for the opportunity!
This article has been looming within my heart for weeks now. What I am about to share with you stems from truthfully months of conversations, prayers, frustrations, victories, hard questions, hard answers, and God’s grace. My trip to SYMC has become the capstone to a lot of these feelings; let me explain…
For reasons that I don’t fully understand, God has put the desire within my heart and the calling on my life to write. This truly does not make much sense to me since English was my worst subject in school and I was completely content being an average youth worker that no one knew or cared about outside of the local church I work at and my own family.
This writing journey started for me about 3 years ago after a long argument with God about why I didn’t want to write; I liked what I was doing in the local church and I wanted nothing, especially my ego, to get in the way of that. I know myself pretty well, and I knew that even mild success could cause me to focus on the wrong things. So if I didn’t ever write then that could never happen.
Here I am three years later with a book that will be out in a month or so, a second book in the edit process, a third book idea in its infant stage, and a blog. Upon giving in to God and me starting to write I told God that this had nothing to do with me wanting to be “Christian famous” or making extra money. It had everything to do with me fulfilling everything He wanted me to do with my life.
James 4:17 (NIV) Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.
That commitment has been tested more than once over these past 3 years, and I can tell you that I have not always passed that test. In the weeks leading up to my trip to SYMC God used several key people in my life to show me that I once again, had failed at keeping everything in proper perspective. As I entered into an environment where self-promotion and narcissism run rampant I had only one question on my heart and mind.
Is it even possible to do both and do them well? Can I work in a local church and write/speak on the national scale and not be negatively affected by it all?
As I stepped off the plane in Louisville, after several hours alone with God and my thoughts, that was what I needed God to answer. I was fully prepared (and kind of expected) for God to release me from the national scene and let me go back to Boise, focus on my family and my church, and never write again. You already know (since you are reading this) that is not exactly the answer I received. Through many conversations, classes, speakers, and observations this is what God showed me.
My voice is important
One of the things I had committed to before I went was to not push my blog or writing on anyone. As I purposefully did not bring it up in any conversations I was surprised at how many people asked me about it, and how many of those people told me how much they appreciated what I had to say. I saw that God was using my writing in ways I had no idea about.
My identity and worth belongs only in God
Walt Mueller mentioned a few different times about his findings from his research on social media and how it effects people. I already knew that I had been effected by it, and he just confirmed that it was not in a healthy way. I had said to people many times that social networking is “fake fellowship”, but I had not realized how much I had connected my own identity to online interactions. My self-worth was never supposed to be attached to my blog stats, number of twitter followers, or Facebook interactions but somehow that had become more important to me than the real live people in front of me. In the past two weeks I have not looked at my blog stats at all, limited my time online, and leave my phone on the counter when I get home. It has been very freeing but hard at the same time.
I had put my faith in the wrong places
My intention from the very beginning was to write for God and let him do with it what he wanted. I realized that by me pursuing agents, publishers, and other outlets for my writing I was doing it more for myself than for God. The more I participated in and got beat up by the publishing industry the more it messed with me. I had several conversations with people that had already been published and I realized that my issues might only be magnified if I, like them, did get traditionally published. Since my writing is not helping anyone sitting on my hard drive I am now going to self-publish my books so it is available and let God take care of the marketing and distribution. If my family and friends are the only people that buy my books it does not matter. They are God’s books and He can do whatever he wants with them, and since I will not be tied to a specific publisher or brand I will only answer to God.
God led me to James 3:13-4:17 that day on the airplane which started me down the road of seeing these three very important things.
James 4:1 (NIV) What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
That day I wrote in my journal “the desires that battle within me are to be known and loved in the national spotlight vs. being a local youth pastor, husband, and Dad that doesn’t care about all that. I don’t know if I am capable of doing both Lord. That is the truth, and I don’t want to deny it any longer.”
God showed me that I can’t do both if I do it my way. But if I do fulfill what God has asked me to do, and only that, it is possible. What battles are going on inside of you? What truth do you need to admit to God and to yourself?
James 4:10 (NIV) Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up
I have been working on a youth worker one day training event that is coming up in exactly one month from today. The WARM conference as a whole is for people within the church of God on the west coast to connect for a few days. My main responsibility has been the youth worker breakout, and that training is open to everyone who wants to take the time to come; any denomination, full or part time, paid or volunteer. Doug Fields is going to be teaching 3 sessions as well as eating lunch with us (the meal is included in the $50 registration fee). On Wednesday April 18th, from 11:30am – 5pm I hope you can join us at Mt. Scott Church of God for this great event.
Click Here for more details and to register.
To learn more about Doug Click Here
It has been over a week since I have returned home from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Over that that time I have been involved in many different things and been just as busy as ever before. During this busy time I have continued to think about the things I experienced, observed, and talked about while at the conference.
I realize now that God had already been trying to get my attention about a few foundational issues, and this was confirmed while on that trip. One of them is this:
What is youth ministry really about?
At first glance this should not be a hard question to answer; it is about connecting teenagers to God. However, I realized that many of the decisions, changes, and priorities that I deal with day to day don’t really reflect that answer. A very humbling thing to admit, but there are times when youth ministry is more about me and programs than it is about teenagers and God. If it really is about connecting them to God through relationship (and it is) then everything I do as a youth worker should be a means to that end.
While at the conference I was a room host, which means I was in the same breakout room the entire weekend and didn’t have the option of choosing what I heard or learned. Since there are so many options I saw this as an advantage, and God put me in exactly the right room to hear exactly what I needed to hear.
During one of the sessions Walt Mueller (click here to go to the CPYU website) asked this question:
“If the power grid suddenly went down at your church would your students still know how to worship?”
This hit really close to home since we had just bought new stage lights for our youth room. Ultimately this points back to the foundational question; is our youth ministry really helping students fall in love with God or are they falling in love with an experience? If the band didn’t play, if there was no big screen, if the stage lights didn’t produce a perfect hue of red will the teenagers in my church still be able to worship God? Are they connecting relationally to God and to other people through what we do?
I am not saying we need to completely unplug from technology, but I am saying we need to keep it all in the right perspective. Is that technology helping us toward the right end, because if it isn’t then we shouldn’t be using it. Technology and hype can NEVER replace relationship. The band could play the songs perfectly, the sound system can be perfect, the message be entertaining and engaging, and students can still leave that program saying “I need something deeper.”
Deeper does not mean more entertaining or more content, deeper means more personal. In a world full of social networking and screens of all sizes almost everything has become surface level when it comes to relational value. What ministry (youth or otherwise) is really about is relationship. True relationship with God, with other Christians, and sharing those relationships with the world.
I realized that what was missing from our youth ministry had nothing to do with programing, and therefore could not be fixed with programming ideas. It had everything to do with relationship value, and that is what I am trying to work on. What is your ministry really about?
Perhaps you have noticed, I have not posted for a week. Since returning home from SYMC my life has been crazy. I have been fulfilling a lot of different identities and “blogger” has not been one of them. I have been living out part of my book (The Youth Ministry Paradigm) the past several days. Since it is going to be out in a month or two, I want to give you a preview. This excerpt is from chapter 4:
We all fill a number of different identities in our day-to-day life. No matter what profession or stage of life you are in, we all wear different “hats”: sometimes it’s the friend hat, sometimes it’s the football fanatic hat, other times it’s the crazed driver hat. The paradigm asks that the only hat we wear is the youth worker hat and everything else we do must fit under it, if there is room.
If God is not asking you to change who you are in order to fulfill the ministry He wants you to do, what is His direction? We all know it is impossible to truly fulfill every identity that presents itself in our daily life. God does not expect you to be able to fulfill every identity that is presented to you. He does expect you to fulfill every identity you say yes to. Therefore, we as youth workers have to learn that “no” is not a bad word.
Obviously there are some identities we should not say no to, like Christian, family member, and me. Yet sometimes these are the only ones we say no to. But these are not the identities that typically dominate our ministry life. The ones that do dominate our lives are the ones we might need to say no to, like website designer, office manager, janitor, addiction specialist, professional counselor, stand-up comedian, etc, etc. Where most youth workers mess up is that they don’t put all these identities into a healthy priority list. Most people don’t even have a list, much less actually prioritize it.
In first Timothy chapter three, Paul describes what the life of a leader in the church should be like. He basically makes a list of identities we need to fulfill. As you read through this passage, notice the identities Paul describes.
1 Timothy 3:1 – 13 (NLT) 1It is a true saying that if someone wants to be an elder, he desires an honorable responsibility. 2For an elder must be a man whose life cannot be spoken against. He must be faithful to his wife. He must exhibit self-control, live wisely, and have a good reputation. He must enjoy having guests in his home and must be able to teach. 3He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money. 4He must manage his own family well, with children who respect and obey him. 5For if a man cannot manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church? 6An elder must not be a new Christian, because he might be proud of being chosen so soon, and the Devil will use that pride to make him fall. 7Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not fall into the Devil’s trap and be disgraced. 8In the same way, deacons must be people who are respected and have integrity. They must not be heavy drinkers and must not be greedy for money. 9They must be committed to the revealed truths of the Christian faith and must live with a clear conscience. 10Before they are appointed as deacons, they should be given other responsibilities in the church as a test of their character and ability. If they do well, then they may serve as deacons. 11In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. 12A deacon must be faithful to his wife, and he must manage his children and household well. 13Those who do well as deacons will be rewarded with respect from others and will have increased confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.
What identities are in there? What identities did you expect would be in there, but aren’t? Notice that Paul concludes that living life the way you should, will ultimately increase your faith. Is your current list of identities in an order that is increasing your faith? If not, change is needed.
When was the last time you were really alone? Remember what happened in Jacob’s life right before God showed up to institute change in him? He ended up completely alone. My guess is that you cannot remember the last time you were truly alone for more than a few minutes; and no, the bathroom stall does not count. The first step in allowing God to work in a new way is to get alone, have God show up, and wrestle some things out with Him if need be.
While you are alone, make a list of all the identities you fulfill in your life. Think through your daily and weekly routines and write down every identity where you spend any amount of time. Once you have your list, prioritize it according to your real life. Then compare your list to the Biblical priority list. As you compare these two lists, remember the question I already raised: are you an example worthy of following by the students you minister to? A hard question to admit the truth about I know, but if you continue to ignore it, God cannot work in a new way.
As I said, I am living this out…again…right now. I hope it can help you as it has helped me.
I am at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville this weekend. During the conference I have the role of room host. Which means I have a breakout room that I have been assigned and I “host” the speaker, the people, and everything that happens in that room for the entire conference. This also means that I do not have to choose what to attend and what not to attend, which is great for me since there are so many great options.
Today I had a pre-conference track in my room about building a strong ministry team. There was a ton of great content and the presenters did a great job. There was one statement made that has really made me think:
Too large of a team is almost worse than too small of a team.
I realize that too large of a team is not something that is a typical issue within most youth ministries. The most common is definitely too small. However, I can say there have been a few times within my last decade of leading a volunteer team that I did actually have too many people. Here are a few things I have thought about why this statement is true.
1. We all have a desire to be needed
If someone makes the effort and makes the sacrifice to attend an event they are expecting to be needed. If someone comes and they end up just standing around because everything is done by someone else they will most likely feel like they wasted their time. I hope no one ever feels like they have wasted their time by helping in youth ministry.
2. We aren’t sure what to do with too many people
I have become pretty good at adapting to having too few people; I just do it all myself. I realize that is unhealthy but I also think I am not the only one that defaults to that… When I am faced with actually having people to help I don’t always switch from my default, and still do it all myself. Even if I can hand some things off, the default phrase when someone else shows up is “just love on students.” The problem is that is actually a very vague statement, and people that hear that most likely will end up back at #1.
Just a few quick thoughts…more will come I am sure.