I am sitting in the airport waiting for my plane back to Boise, and it’s raining. I just spent three days in Portland, OR listening to a few great speakers (Michael Frost and Doug Fields), hanging with some great people, and walking through lots of rain. I definitely have a lot to think about and unpack and process from these three packed days away. I plan to write about a lot of this as I process it all, but until then here are a few quick things I am taking home with me from this trip. Yes it rained most of the time, but my time here has been very WARM!
1. Relationships are HUGE
This conference is a gathering of pastors from the western states of the Church of God. Over the years of attending this conference and being on the planning side of it the past few years I have gotten to know many of these people. It is fun to hang out with like-minded friends. Our ministry and personal paths cross from time to time, but our friendships and connections go much deeper than that. I have not talked face to face with Doug for many years. Others I have seen recently but no matter how long it has been it is always great to catch up and share stories.
2. Successful ministry doesn’t have to be complicated and busy
As I reflect on the teachings of both Doug Fields and Michael Frost I see this common theme through both of their messages. These two men had very different styles and approaches, but they both communicated a similar message to me; slow down and keep it simple and effective. More on this to come…
3. Keep pressing forward
Once again, like God did a month ago on my trip to SYMC, I am encouraged to keep doing what I am doing. I see God answering some long time questions of mine, opening some doors, closing others, and confirming to me I am headed in the right direction. With my church, my writing, my friendships, and every other area of my life. There is nothing like being right in the middle of God’s will, and that is exactly where I feel I am right now.
I have no idea where you are at in your life or in your ministry, but if it is “raining” I encourage you to seek God and find out what is missing. Is it relationships? Are you making things more complicated than they need to be? Are you just too busy? Perhaps you just need confirmation you are heading in the right direction. Whatever it might be, seek God and ask if you don’t know, because I know 100% that He does know and I believe he will tell you if you ask. Just because it might be raining, don’t let it ruin anything.
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.