BEST YOUTH MINISTRY BLOG POST OF 2012

If you get a chance today I would appropriated your vote.  I recently had a post nominated for the Best Youth Ministry Post of 2012 (ironically it is on preaching, 6 Steps To Help You Prepare To Preach).  You don’t have to vote for my blog. It is pretty easy to vote.  Some really cool prizes for the winner.  Thanks a bunch to all my readers.

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LEADERSHIP 101: CREATING CLEAR EXPECTATIONS

I feel like this is a lesson I should have gotten somewhere along the way, in school, grad school or a conference, somewhere but it is a leadership lesson I have been learning on my own.  As a leader what are your expectations for the people you are leading?


Often, I find the people I am leading do not meet my expectations.  Which can be very frustrating for a leader; especially, when they are teenagers.  Typically, we chalk it up to apathy or laziness and dismiss the possibly it could be our own fault they are not meeting our expectations.  This has been a challenge for me over the last several years with our Student Leadership group.  On the flip side there is nothing more discouraging than constantly trying to meet someones expectations you are unaware of.  It can only lead to failure and frustration.

This year, I decided to approach the expectations from a different angle.  I created a covenant for the students and the parents to sign, laying out exactly what I expect from students serving in this ministry.  After I handed out the expectations and asked them to sign and return, I had a conversation with a couple of our seniors in Student Leadership.  They were wondering why this was necessary, not in an upset way but a curious way.  They kind of understood these expectations.  So I asked them specifically, did you know I expect you to…  and I went through the list of expectations.  Several they understood from the beginning, some they had figured out over time and one they did not even know.  So why did it surprise me that my expectations often went unmet?

In leadership, often our greatest frustration comes from unmet expectations.  What if instead of looking at the people not meeting our expectations, we looked in the mirror at the one creating the expectations.  Expectations not being met?  Ask yourself, are your expectations clear?  How do they know your expectations?  Have you communicated the expectations clearly?  There is a great difference between expectations being clear in your head and the expectations being clear in other people’s heads.

So enter the covenant.  Here is what I came up with for anyone in our Student Leadership group.  What are your thoughts and/or feedback on the covenant?  How do you clearly communicate expectations?

Student Leadership Covenant

DOES PRAYER REALLY WORK?

Does prayer really work?  Have you ever asked that question?  Have you ever really thought about what you are asking?

When I talk to people who say, No, prayer does not work; typically they mean they prayed for something they wanted and did not get it.  Seems logical, right?  I mean when Jesus tells us, “ask anything in my name and it will be done” or John writes “if we know he hears us then we have what we have asked of Him.”  So if this is the case, it would seem logical, we would determine whether or not prayer “works” based on the answers we receive.

But what if we have it all wrong?  Looking at the context of both of these promises, we find God’s will at the center.  When Jesus uses the phrase “ask anything in my name,” is centered on the context of His will.  When John writes, “we know that we have what we asked of him,” the preceding verse says we can ask anything according to His will.

This thinking is so reflective of Jesus prayer life.  So what we do is pray for whatever we want and tack the phrase on to the end and think, great!  Got it.  Is this what John is asking?  Often my prayer life it is me praying for things I want to happen or things I won’t do anything about.  Jesus prayers are so focused on the will of the Father.

“remain in Me,” “ask in my name,” “according to your will.”

Prayers throughout scripture seem to have the same focus.  They are almost always kingdom focused.  Typically, the prayers in scripture are focused more on peoples spiritual health more than their physical health.  The laments seen in scripture are typically laments over the results of doing what God has called them to.  There are laments over sin.  There is largely this focus in prayer by God’s people about following God’s will.

So, does this mean you can’t pray for things that you want or are concerned about?  Not at all but our wants and desires should not be the focus of our prayer life.  Prayer is not about aligning God with our will.

Prayer is about ALIGNING our HEART with God’s will.

So prayer is a practice.

Prayer is more about LISTENING than SPEAKING. 

It is more about SUBMITTING than about CONTROLING. 

It is more about BEING than it is about DOING.

Prayer is a practice meant for the purpose of aligning our heart and life to the will of God.  It is the practice of hearing His voice.

RE-VISIONING YOUTH MINISTRY

If you look back to the prototypical youth ministry model of the 80’s and 90’s, the model I and many of my ministry friends grew up in, we saw churches pulling the teenagers out from the church as a whole and segregating them.

There was the church and there was the youth ministry.  Unintentionally conveying to parents, it is the “professional” youth ministers job to disciple your children.  Teaching students this ministry is here to serve you and meet your needs.  Over the past decade we have seen the overarching problems with this model.  Ministers are trying to frantically reverse the direction of youth ministry that became so ingrained in the DNA of churches through the 1980’s & 1990’s.

The goal has become connecting students back to the church, trying to convince parents it is their responsibility to disciple their children, and trying to move students back into the role of leaders and planners.  Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the youth ministry model I grew up in.  I had a blast but, with all we are learning about what youth ministry has been producing, I think we have some serious questions we must answer moving forward.  According to Barna Group research, 59 percent of teenagers who are active in their youth groups today will stop attending church at some point between the ages of 18 and 29. Show how do we begin reconnecting?

Connecting to the church – The problem comes for most teenagers in the transition from High School to College/ Work.  Chuck Bomar & Reggie Joiner address this issue specifically in “The Show Fade,” and is well worth picking up a copy to better understand the problem.  Part of the job of a successful student ministry must become connecting students with older mentors in the church who will commit to a relationship with a student. It is key that the relationship must be built to continue after high school, regardless of whether the student goes off to college or stays home.  This year we are allowing incoming 6th graders to choose 3 to 4 significant adults in their life.  These adults are going have the opportunity at a special ceremony to give a charge to the 6th grader.  Then each of the adults will be given a charge to commit to walking with this 6th grader and building a relationship with him through Jr. High, High School and into college.  These students need significant relationships with other adults who believe in them and who they look up to, to challenge and encourage them.  Connecting students to the overall church body is not simply throwing together a few all together events; this is about building meaningful relationships.

Partnering with parents – The goal is not for the minister to disciple the students, rather the new goal becomes equipping and encouraging the parents to take ownership of their children’s faith.  The idea scares so many younger parents because they were not discipled by their parents.  They grew up in the same model of youth ministry that we did and so it was not modeled for them.  Our job is to help parents connect with their kids.  With so many other obstacles including overcrowded schedules, not knowing how becomes the final reason not to.  So we walk along with parents simply pointing out some ways to disciple their children in the time they have.  Parents are great about praying with their children when they are younger or reading them a Bible story but as they get into their Jr. High and High School years they freak out at the idea?  In reality, nothing has to change.  Read and pray together, grow together and I promise it will strengthen the relationship.  Don’t make things more complex than they are.

Plugging students into ministry – We live in a narcissistic world and we have drug our churches into the same mindset.  If you are looking for a place to point the finger, look no further than the church leaders.  People show up with an expectation to be fed, after all it is the “mission of the church” we have unknowingly conveyed.  It is the expectation of adults and it’s no wonder why it has become the expectation of the students as well.  We must teach students, especially the leaders, to come not with the expectation of being fed but with the expectation of feeding and serving others.  Students will grow more in their faith through self sacrificial service than they will ever learn showing up week after week, holding a sign that says “feed me!”  My goal is for our students to be serving in the safety of our youth ministry, for it to be a safe place to learn and even make mistakes.  Our ministries are set up to reflect the ministry structure in our church.  My hope is during their junior and senior year they would be serving in that ministry in the larger church context.

I believe these connections are vital to building more effective student ministries.  What are some other ways we need to be working to connect students back to the church?  What are some ways we need to be working hard to partner with parents?  What are some ways we can be working to plug students into ministries?

FINAL 3 RESOLUTIONS FOR 2012

Here are my final three resolutions for 2012.  Thought I would share these as well.  My hope in posting these five resolutions over the course of the week has been to give ideas to others, but especially to get them out there so others can help to hold me accountable.  Ask me from time to time how it’s going and if I am staying on track.  I would greatly appreciate it!

I will write 4 blog postings per week.                                                                                      

  • Reasons:
    • o I want to become a better writer.
    • o It helps me to really solidify ideas for messages.
    • o It can be an encouragement to others.
    • Obstacles:
      • o Writing takes work.  It is not easy and is difficult to come up with topics.
      • o Schedule gets very busy between work, family and school.
    • New Habits:
      • o Plan writing time into my schedule daily in my weekly review.
      • o Keep a continue list of topics in Evernote, in my Blog folder.

Read through the entire Bible in 2012.

  • Reasons:
    • To grow as a disciple of Christ.
    • I did not read through the entire Bible last year.  I did more specific readings.
    • Obstacles:
      • Waking up early and getting my reading done prior to working out.
      • Lot of busy days when I have so much to get done.
    • New Habits:
      • Up at 5 AM on Sunday through Friday.  Saturday can flex depending on schedule.
  1. Read 2 books a month in 2012.
  • Reasons:
    • I want to continue to learn and grow, as a dad, a minister, a leader, an organizer and a speaker.
  • Obstacles:
    • It requires time to read.
    • Make better use of my book budget.
    • School reading and study time tends to interfere with other reading.
  • New Habits:
    • Read books until I lose interest.  Many books become redundant and instead of reading until the book is finished, read until the information has been covered and then move on.
    • Continue to plan daily reading time into my schedule.

PLEASE EXCUSE MY ABSENCE

First of all I have not quit blogging. In fact I have been writing more in the last 3 weeks than I ever have on my blog, it is just everything I have written has gone to professors for grading. I just finished a 7 hour semester which puts me at 84 total hours. That means I am down to the last 7 hours of my MDiv. I will graduate this May and i am so excited. I have a 3 hour short course in January and then 4 hours on Monday nights in the Spring and then I am done. 7 years, I can’t believe it.

This semester has proven to be one of the more difficult semesters of the past seven years for a couple of reasons. One, if you think senioritis is bad after three and a half years of high school or college, you should experience it following 6 years of Masters work. I am ready to walk across the stage. Secondly, I took an apologetics class which was very difficult. There was a lot of reading involved in the course, along with discussion board interaction with atheists. I truly makes you question what you believe, when someone is attacking everything you believe. I have found in the end it has really strengthened my faith because I had to spend so much time really searching for answers for the faith I have.

So now the semester is over, all the homework is done and I am on the down hill side; so I willing be getting back to the blog, as soon as my computer is back up and running. Tonight my laptop hard drive died. I had to get a new hard drive and now reinstall everything and hope I can recover some of the newer things I had not backed up on the server.

Tonight Cami, Gracie, Ryan and I finished the Christmas shopping, got all our Christmas Cards in the mail and paid a visit to Santa (1st visit without a kid screaming in Santa face). Other than the computer issue a great day! Merry Christmas and God Bless!

SITTING AT THE FEET OF JESUS

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them

For those of you who have been followers of Jesus for a long time you have probably read this verse many times.  I know you have, because it is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.  Next to Psalm 23, it is probably one of the most well know passages of scripture.  Many times in jumping into the Beatitudes we also jump over the first two verses of chapter 5.  In rushing through the first two verses is it possible we might have missed the foundation of our ministry.

Jesus, as he begins this sermon, this powerful, transformational, religion altering sermon, begins with the disciples sitting at His feet ready to learn from Him.  How often do you sit at the feet of Jesus waiting for Him to teach you?  Most of the time we set our agenda with His word; we set our agenda for Him in our prayers.  When was the last time you simply set at the feet of Jesus and listened to His teaching?  Listening to his voice and allowing Him to transform.

How do we do this?  It has been 2000 years since Jesus walked on the earth.  Yes, we have the word, but where do we begin.  How do we allow Jesus to teach us?  I think we must begin as the disciples did, sitting at His feet.  There are lots of different approaches but one I have found particularly helpful over the years is an ancient spiritual discipline called Lectio Divina.  Don’t let the term scare you; it is Latin for Divine ReadingLectio is a practice of reading the word and really requires nothing from you other than a quite place to be still and sit at His feet.

Begin by sitting quietly, clearing your mind and breathing in deeply.

  • Reading: Begin by reading the passage through slowly several times out loud.
  • Meditation:  Allow God’s spirit to speak to you.  What is a word or phrase that really jumps out at you?  What is the main idea of the passage?  Spend some time focusing on aspects of the passage as they come to your mind.
  • Prayer: Speak with God.  You have allowed Him to speak, now connecting with Him, ask Him to continue to reveal His truth.  What does your response need to be to the spirits nudging?  How will His truth affect your life moving forward?
  • Contemplation:  Conclude this time by simply resting in his presence.  Be still and know He is God.

You will notice this process requires a lot more silence than we are typically used to.  Maybe through our silence we can hear the voice of God and truly sit at the feet of Jesus?  When our ministry begins with us sitting at His feet and allowing Him to teach us, our lives will truly be transformed.  It is then our ministries will begin to transform the lives of those around us.

Follow up:  Here is a great passage you can begin with, Luke 10:38-42