You are Making a Difference!

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After working in youth ministry for more than 15 years I know that discouragement can be a normal emotion.  I know what it feels like to wonder if you are making a difference.  I want to take a minute to silence that voice in your head and replace it with a loud and clear KEEP GOING, YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

One of the biggest reasons these feelings are so common is because teenagers (and our society) are not typically good at saying thank you.  Maureen and I recently had a few different experiences that were exactly the opposite; I hope they are as encouraging to you as they have been to us.

My wife Maureen spent an evening hanging out with some of the girls from her small group, and later that night she stumbled on to this post:

sadee instagram

Then on a recent trip to Texas for some meetings I had lunch with a former student who graduated from our youth ministry almost 10 years ago.  She is recently married, is doing well in the business world, and her faith is growing and as strong as ever.  She shared how her time at Cloverdale and the influence of the pastors and leaders in her life has really made her into the woman of God she is today.

brittini If you are just starting out in ministry, know that experiences like these are around the corner, keep going.  Be faithful to the call God has given you, and I hope you will see similar fruit as God changes lives through your efforts.

Northwest Ministry Conference, March 19-21 in Seattle, WA

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I am honored and humbled to be included in this list! I am also excited to share some things I learned while leading a team of volunteers for all these years.  If you are going to this conference I hope to see you and connect in some way while we are there.  If you aren’t already going, I think you should consider it.  Jump over to their website and check out all the details and get registered.

Simple yet Effective

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Distracted.

This word is quickly becoming the definition of our culture.  There is so much to consume, so much to read, watch, and play.  Every moment can easily be filled with a swipe of the screen.  Yet, with all the access we could ever want, is it helping us to accomplish what God has entrusted to us to accomplish?

Time management and busyness have always been major issues in ministry.  The real question should be if we are spending our time on things that really matter.  What sucks time out of your day that with one small adjustment could return huge time dividends?

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

For me it is email.  Every time I grab my phone I check it…all four email addresses.  And almost every time there are new messages; mainly because of all the lists my addresses have ended up on.  Realizing how much time I waste deleting emails, I have started unsubscribing from many of them.  Although the time I get back is minimal at first, the biggest return is my distraction level.

What simple yet effective change can you make in your daily routine?  Is it using the unsubscribe link, or limiting social media time, or just closing the door to your office?  A seemingly small change can return big results. I dare you to make a change!

Family is more important than we think…

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Reflecting on the Thanksgiving weekend we all just experienced, I was reminded of this post from last spring and thought it would be fitting as we navigate yet another holiday season.

Today I taught Launch Pad, a Christian religious release class in public school.  Today’s class was about how God is a God of joy and delight.  Being happy and having fun truly can be an act of worship!

The last part of the class we all sat in a circle, ate ice cream, and went around the circle sharing a bit about our lives.  We all answered two questions:

1. What is one thing you are looking forward to doing this summer, and how will that bring joy into your life?

2. Describe one person that you have observed in your life that truly lives out the joy of the Lord.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I was a bit surprised by the majority of the answers.  There were a few of they typical/predictable answers.  But the majority of the students mentioned an activity like a trip or camping or vacation.  Why did it bring them joy? “Because I will get to be with my family.”  Literally almost every student mentioned that.

And then the second question; literally half of the students said a grandparent.  A few others answered one or both of their parents.  Not a single one identified their youth pastor or youth leader, and these are all students that are at least loosely connected to a church youth group.

If you are a parent or a grandparent: your influence is HUGE in a teenager’s world

I realize teenagers don’t always say thank you and sometimes it doesn’t seem like they care if you are involved in their life.  But they are listening and they are watching, and they care for you A LOT.

If you are a youth worker: you need to be encouraging and helping families

If you truly care about teenagers’ faith growing (and I know you do), your efforts need to include parents and multiple generations.  I have heard it said for my entire youth ministry tenure–the #1 influence in a teenager’s life is their family.  That was once again proved accurate today.

What are you doing to support and/or encourage parents in your church?

How are the multiple generations within your church interacting with each other?

Obvious Yet Often Overlooked

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There is something about teenagers that every youth worker needs to realize.  This is going to happen to 100% of the students in every ministry.  It is never a major surprise when it happens but often times it is tragic.

 They get to old to attend youth programs.

The typical youth ministry does a pretty bad job of preparing teenagers for this, which is one of the major contributing factors to one of the most embarrassing statistics attached to youth ministry; the percentage of graduates that remain in the church.  (I believe there are several contributing factors to this, not just this one)

What has been the typical response when this inevitable event occurs?  If your church counts weekend attendance using more than 3 zeros you transition them on to the 18-24 year old program.  If not, we either send them off to “big church” not expecting to ever see them again or we make them a volunteer leader in the youth ministry.  Any of these, especially in smaller churches, have minimal rates of success (typically) and sometimes produce more problems.

I have been working with teenagers for 15 years, and my personal track record does not beat the average of how many of those former youth group members are actively living for and serving God.  Here are a few hard questions we need to ask ourselves:

 Does relationship end at the same time as their program attendance?

The core message of the Bible is relationship; with God, with other Christians, and with the world.  Even guys I have personally discipled for years I hardly ever (or never) talk to after graduation.  Yes, there is a list of excuses, not to mention the list of new students that come in as the old ones graduate, but I am embarrassed to admit how bad I am at keeping in touch.

Ultimately it is not MY relationship with them that matters most, but their relationship with God.  If all we have done in our four to six years with them is attaching their faith to our programs we are setting them up for failure.  They need to know how to grow in their faith on their own, not just at church.

What is my real goal for them?

Is the goal of youth ministry behavior modification?  For a lot of parents, church boards, and even youth workers it is.  I realize how bad that sounds, but if we feel successful based on how many students are in the church’s graduating class, and how many of those are still virgins and/or don’t have a criminal record then it probably is.

Our goal for them needs to be spiritual transformation.  Programs can certainly aid in that goal, but they are just a means to this goal, not the goal itself.  A lot of what I see in the youth ministry world is program ideas.  I need some more spiritual transformation ideas.  I know how to entertain students, I am still trying to figure out more ways I can aid God in transforming them from His creation to His child.  How can I help them move God from just savior to actually being their Lord?  From trying so hard to blend into the world to sharing God’s heart and wanting to change the world?

Every student that I meet is going to get too old to attend our youth ministry.  I don’t want to be a part of setting them up for failure any longer.  Are you with me?  What are some of your “spiritual transformation” ideas?

Training Seminar in Boise

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resolve flyerJust wanted to let you in on this training I am involved with in Boise coming up soon.  If you are within driving distance I hope you will consider this as an option for training not just yourself but your team of leaders as well.  You can check out more details and register online by clicking here.

Comment with any questions as well, hope to see you on November 8th!

*FYI these conferences are available to be done in other locations as well, resolve has several options on their website and you can see the seminars I offer on my speaking page.

Real Men Cry About the Right Things 3

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As I have been continuing to think about this series of posts, I want to conclude these by looking at scripture so me, and you, will not be focused on me or my ideas, but on God.

I in no way have meant to imply that if you don’t cry that you aren’t a real man.  My hope for both you and me is that we will be exactly what God created us to be.  If that includes crying, then no need to hide it.  If it doesn’t, then don’t fake it.

To wrap up this series, I want you to read some of God’s opinion of what a real man is really like.  I focused on 3 identities that are pretty common for most men: God’s child, a husband, and a father.  I feel like I have not even scratched the surface of what God has to say.  Please read through these verses, and feel free to add the ones that I didn’t.

Mark 10:6-8 (NIV) 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV) 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV) 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Ephesians 5:21-28 (NIV) 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 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.28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Colossians 3:19 (NIV) 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Colossians 3:21 (NIV) 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 7:1-5 (NIV) 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Proverbs 19:18 (NIV) 18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.

Proverbs 23:13 (NIV) 13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.  14 Punish them with the rod and save them from death.

Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV) 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV) 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.