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 2

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As I continue my thoughts about this topic, I have to say that most of my life I have felt embarrassed when I cry.  In fact, I have been putting off writing this post for days partly because of that embarrassment.  Yet, as I think about what makes me cry I should feel honored, not embarrassed.

I cried when I was baptized.

I cried at my wedding. 

I cried at the birth of all three of my boys.

I cried at my ordination service. 

I have always said “the only 2 things that make me cry is my family and when God works.”  As I think back to all the times I have cried (like the times listed above) and the times I have not cried (like when I felt the most intense physical pain of my life after my bike wreck) that statement really is true.  My struggle and embarrassment about being a crier comes with how our world defines “a man.”  The traditional world view is that men don’t cry, or feel emotions, or ever say I love you.  A friend and speaker recently said “if your wife knows you will die for her submission is not a problem.”  This statement really made me think, and truthfully challenged me.  I tell my wife I love her every day, but does she know I will fight for her, even die for her and our boys?  I hope she does because I would.

I disagree with the traditional world view of manhood. 

I think real men cry about the right things.  I think real men love their wives and kids so much they will die for them and actually tell them that.  I think real men lead by example.  I think real men invite accountability.  I think real men find a balance between discipline and love.  I think real men are strong enough to be the Spiritual leaders of their households.  I think real men work hard, play hard, and love even harder.

I love it when I see other guys striving to be real men.  This past week I had a former student from our youth ministry, who is now married, call and ask to use me as an accountability partner in the X3 program he was putting on his computer.  He was nervous and embarrassed, but I am proud of him for stepping up.  I was also proud to tell him I have the same accountability software on my computer, and have my report emailed to my wife so she never questions my online activity.

If you need help with online accountability go here and get the free program from XXX Church.

Are you a real man?  Are you striving to be one like I am?  I hope so because our world seems to be short on them.  From my own boys, to the guys in my youth ministry and church, they need to see a lot of good examples of real men.  So do the guys in your world.    Whether you are a crier or not, you can be a real man with God’s help and grace.

 

It’s Not ALWAYS Harvest Season

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I was looking through some old articles and I found this one that I wrote two and a half years ago.  A lot has happened since I wrote this, a lot of which I had no idea was coming.  But because of doing the things I described in this article, I feel confident in saying the harvest is finally here again! I hope this can be an encouragement to you, no matter what season your ministry is in.

Here is the original article:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

 I am about to make one of the most humbling statements any spiritual leader can make.  Are you ready, here it comes…

My church and my youth ministry are both in a sowing season.

I had two separate conversations last week, one with a youth worker and one with a senior pastor, and both of them were relieved to hear me say that.  To be able to admit it, not be ashamed of it, and not just give the token “things are fine, we are growing” pad answer.

The truth is you cannot always be in a harvest season, but for spiritual leaders (especially youth workers) it is very hard to admit if we aren’t.  In Mark chapter 11 Jesus has a little run in with a certain fig tree:

Mark 11:12 – 14 (NIV) 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

My question is this: what made Jesus so upset?  Obviously he didn’t hate trees—but he was teaching his disciples a very important lesson.  Jesus was upset because the tree was not being true to the season it was in.  If a fig tree has leaves, it is supposed to have fruit.  But “it was not the season for figs.”  The tree was faking it, there was no fruit but it wanted everyone that looked at it to think there was.  It couldn’t admit it was not harvest season.

To state it bluntly: if you or your church or ministry is not in a harvest season, don’t try and fake it, just admit that you aren’t.  Believe me; I know how hard it is to do that.  But it is OK to not always be in a harvest season, as long as we do the right things when we aren’t.

 What do I need to do once I admit I am in a sowing season?

I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things God has shown me as I walk through my own sowing season:

Seek God more than you ever have before

Reading scripture, prayer, solitude, fasting…  All of the above-at the same time!

Jeremiah 5:24 – 25 (NIV) 24…‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ 25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.

During those times ask God for wisdom on what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest.  It may be something that needs to change about you.  It may be something that needs to change in your church or ministry environment.  Just be open to the truth when God speaks it (and remember God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to slow down to hear it)

Plow

I am not a farmer, but I do understand what has to be done in the times between harvests.  If you don’t plow, cultivate, fertilize, and plant new seeds the next harvest will never arrive.

 Proverbs 20:4 (NIV) A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

 Once God speaks to you about what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest, you have to actually do it.  Make the sacrifice, have the hard conversation, do whatever it is that you have been putting off.  Often times we know what needs to be done, we just drag our feet until it is too late or too much damage has been done.  Do the work God needs you to do to move forward.

Keep going and give God your best no matter what

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

Even if you are not in a harvest season, God still needs you to be faithful.  The people that make the biggest spiritual strides during your sowing season will be the leadership during the next harvest.  Anyone can be a good pastor and/or leader when everything they touch or do is turning to gold, be an even better pastor/leader when things aren’t going right.

The encouraging thing is that in all three of these passages, it implies that another harvest is right around the corner.  I have faith and trust in God that he will bring another season of harvest, and until he does I will keep trying to do the right things for the season I am in.

Good…but not easy

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I just finished my first week officially in my new position at Cloverdale.  The past month has been one of transition as I gradually handed more and more off to our new youth pastor.  For the first time in my adult life I am not a youth pastor and it does feel weird.  I am very confident this entire thing is good, but it also has not been easy.

There have been several months of prayer and lots of conversations with those closest to me through this entire process.  However I realize for those outside my inner circle this change has come as a surprise.  I hope this post can answer some questions if you have them.  Or if you are seeking God about a change in your life I hope this can help in some way.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 10-11 (NLT) For everything there is a season…I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

Having been in the church my entire life I have seen a lot of pastors change positions and/or churches.  Especially the last 15 years being closely involved in the youth ministry world, I have heard a lot of people say “I just know it is time to change.”  That has never made sense to me…until now.  I still have the same burden for teenagers to fall in love with Jesus and I want youth ministry to win as much today as ever before.  However, I knew my season as the youth pastor at Cloverdale had come to an end; I either needed to change roles on our staff or do youth ministry in a different church.  I trusted God to give me the right answer, and I feel he did exactly that.

Ecclesiastes 3:4 (NLT) A time to grieve and a time to dance

Now that the transition is actually happening I feel like I am grieving and dancing all at the same time.  I am happy to see the good side of all these changes, but it also hurts in many ways.  Remembering all that God did in this past season calls for dancing.  Realizing all that could have been done better is humbling.  And handing off what feels like a part of you to someone else is gut wrenching.  Knowing God is leading this brings a lot of comfort, but I still am grieving as well.

Psalm 30:11-12 (NIV) You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

As the season changes in my life and ministry, I realize that it is important to grieve to bring a proper close to that chapter.  I committed to do youth ministry until God told me to do something different, and now that He has it is time to grieve, to celebrate, and move on.  I gave my all to this past season, and I will give my all to the next one.  I am excited to see what God has in store!

My Next Step

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beach footprintsPerhaps you have noticed, but this site has been pretty quiet for the last few months.  While the site was quiet, the rest of my life has not been.  I had lots going on in just about every area of my life, and I needed to take a step back to seek God and work through everything privately as I figured out what my next step would be in my ministry journey.

I have spent extended time alone with God on a spiritual retreat, enjoyed a great vacation with my family, had numerous conversations with the leadership of my church and my inner core of confidants, and prayed A LOT.

This last weekend everything went public to our church, and now to you.  On August 1st, I will for the first time in my ministry career, not be a youth pastor.  I am staying at Cloverdale and taking a new position as Associate Pastor to Families.

I am excited for a new challenge.  I am excited that I don’t have to say goodbye to the Cloverdale family.  I am excited to see God work in new ways.  I am excited to still contribute to the youth ministry world from a different perspective.  I am excited that I can once again be at peace and fight for God with everything I have as I fulfill his will for me.

From this point, I hope to jump back in with writing and speaking as well, so please keep checking back, reading, and listening.  I’m excited for the future, and I’m honored to share my journey with you!

New Book is Officially Released!!

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Front cover (2)

The hardest part about leading a team of volunteers isn’t finding them, it is keeping them.  To keep volunteers you need a culture that allows them to thrive, and that doesn’t happen by accident.  This practical guide will not only get you started, but set you and your ministry on the road toward the irresistible volunteer culture you know you need.  

Buy your print copy today!

(click cover to buy on kindle)

kindle cover

Book Intro:

       Volunteers play an important role in any church or ministry. I am so glad that you are interested in pursuing a culture that is “irresistible” to volunteers. Whether you are just beginning a volunteer program, or would like to improve the one you have, I believe you will find this book rewarding. Yes, this book is about leading volunteers, but it is just as much about you, as it is about them.  Thank you for trusting me with a few hours of your busy life; this is going to be a great journey!

My intention in keeping this book short and practical is to give you a springboard to get started immediately.  Before we get started, I want to point out two things to keep in mind as you read this book:

  1.  The information and concepts in this book are not new or groundbreaking. However, I don’t believe something has to be new or groundbreaking to be valuable; it just has to work.  These concepts have worked for me, many others around me, and those that have come before me—they will work for you too.
  2.  I have spent many years in youth ministry, so my stories and experiences come from the youth ministry context.  However, if you are leading a different ministry, other than youth ministry, the concepts will still be helpful.  When I use the terms “teenager” or “student,” just mentally replace them with “child,” or “men,” or whatever ministry you lead.

Now that we have cleared that up, please know that I have prayed for you, the ministry you lead, and all the volunteers involved.  You are my hero for taking on this challenge!  Let’s get down to business.

4″ x 6″ handbook size
4 Chapters, 98 pgs.
Create an Irresistible Volunteer Culture

© 2014 by Brian Seidel. All Right Reserved.

Published by In His Grip Publishing in the United States of America

While the cat is away…

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This last week I was out of town at a conference and on my way home I received this text message:

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The video is one several of the youth staff made in my office while I was gone.  You can watch it yourself:

I have had some pretty bad stuff done to my office in the past, and I must admit I was worried at first.  But after watching the video I am proud of them.  I am so lucky to be leading such an amazing team of people who do great youth ministry, and that love to be around each other.  I love all the inside jokes included in the video.  Even though they mean absolutely nothing to you, it speaks to the healthy culture that surrounds our team.

The description of the video is “Just a reminder you are the one that allows us to be on Youth Staff.”  I am honored to serve God along side all of you!