Tag Archives: StudMin

YOU ARE BLESSED – IMPLICATIONS FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Last week a shared Blessed are you – Reflections from the Sermon on the Mount, and this week I wanted to follow up with a few of the possible implications. Like I said last week, much of this is still me thinking out loud and would love to hear thoughts and feedback. Understand we are on a journey, we are learning and growing. So here are a few thoughts from my journey.

sermon_on_mount

After Jesus describes this new righteousness he tells his disciples that following him will not be easy…

Matthew 7:13-14 NIV
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Growing up in a Church of Christ, I was basically taught what Jesus meant, those who are a part of the Church of Christ are on the narrow road and those outside the Church of Christ are on the wide road. Which if you take it to its logical conclusion the road then becomes the Church of Christ rather than way of Jesus. Maybe you experienced the same type of exclusivity within your faith tradition. Jesus is confronting within the Beatitudes, a religious system, which was elevated above God. Now of course they would never claim the system was above God, but truth be told, their system was their god. The synagogue, their savior. The reverence awarded them their hope. Their power, their salvation.

It is this system that beats people into the ground, convincing them they are not adequate of being with God. The system conveys to people, until you to become “righteous” like the rest of us, God will not notice you. The system portrays an impossible mountain to be scaled to sit at the feet of God. It is into this religious system which Jesus bring this “good news.” Jesus is challenging the assumption that those who look righteous and those who look like they have it all together, are the ones who are right with God.

It is into this system which Jesus offers hope and speaks with grace. Blessed are those who are beat down by the religious system, who don’t measure up, who aren’t “good enough,” for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn because of their own sinfulness, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who don’t use positional power to assert their will, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who are truly desire loving God and loving others, for they will be filled. Blessed are those who show mercy to others, who don’t hold peoples pasts over their heads for they will receive mercy. Blessed those who seek peace and unity among other believers rather than creating more divisions, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are trying desperately to live righteous lives, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

It seems for the entirety of Jesus ministry, he stood in opposition to the religious organizations of his day. Why? Because their organization valued power over people. It valued prestige over humility. It valued outward appearance over the heart. So, why do the beatitudes still matter to us in 2012, just as they did the day Jesus spoke them on the mountainside to the crowd?

  1. Outward appearance is easy to fix, in fact we are quite good at it in our culture today. In fact our churches are filled with people who look amazing from a distance, but when you take the time to get close, you really start to see the cracks and imperfections. This good news is sent to those who embrace the brokenness.
  2. For church leaders, pastors and shepherd’s it is easy to fix the outside of people. It is an entirely different matter to help them fix the inside. For one it is messy, none of us are as shinny as we hope we appear. When, as a church we try to be, it creates a seemingly impossible mountain to climb to be right with God. As people come into our churches they see something or someone “they” could never be.
  3. Everyone, especially leaders, want to be great at what they do. We want to win; we want the biggest and the best. Ultimately, we want to appear to, at the very least, be adequate before God. We are so conditioned, by the world to live on a point system basis. We are constantly measuring our self. When we measure our self against other people, we are comparing what we know about our self, with what we don’t know about the other person.
  4. No one wants to be broken, and if we are broken we, at the very least, don’t want others to know we are broken. But the good news of blessing was to broken people. It was to the ones who were being persecuted for not playing the religious game. It was to the ones trying to live Godly and righteous lives in the midst of a system built on power and oppression.

The Kingdom of God is built on two simple commands, love God and love people. This is true righteousness. This is to be sought after. To follow Jesus is truly humbling because it means forsaking your kingdom to be a part of building his.

Matthew 5:20 NIV
20
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

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THE CORE: DEFINING WHO WE ARE & WHAT WE DO

Are we developing faith within the life of students that sticks?  Are we developing a “Sticky Faith,” a faith that will continue on after the walls of this church are in the rear view mirror?

It is our desire that Westhill would be place where the foundations of a lifelong faith in Christ are formed.  A place of life change, where students are introduced to Jesus and the world around them is radically shaken by the transformation they have experienced.

ENGAGE:
Following Jesus has never been about us, it has and always will be about building His kingdom.  The church was called, then gathered, then formed for the purpose of being sent out.  We are called to go and engage the world with the message of Christ.  We engage the world through serving those around us in our schools, our community and our world.  We share a responsibility to invite people to experience the story of Jesus through our life on display for all to see, as a city on a hill.

EQUIP:
The most important relationship in the life of a student is their relationship with their parents. We highly value this relationship above all other relationships in the life of a student. Since we place so much value on this relationship, we are committed to doing all we can to help equip and assist parents in every way possible.

CONNECT:
We are not simply a Student Ministry we are a part of a church. It is vital for students to find connections outside of our ministry to build relationships with other caring adults who are willing to pour into the life of a student to mentor and disciple them in their growth in Christ.

CREATE:
We strive to create an authentic family atmosphere within WSM.  A place to belong, to feel accepted, loved and a place where they are not judged. We desire to create environments where students develop relationships with other students and caring adults, who will help them to see a bigger picture of what the Kingdom of God looks like here on earth.

EMPOWER:
We want Westhill to be a place which models servant leadership for our students and then entrusts them to serve.  These students are leaders now, in their schools, in their home and in the church. It is our desire for students not to merely be here, but to find a place to plug in and serve. We want to create a safe place for students to lead and a safe place to fail within our ministry. We want to see every student plugged into a ministry within the context of our Student Ministries.  It is our desire as 11th & 12th graders they would serve in the same ministry in the larger church.


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


GREAT WEEK OF HARDING UPLIFT

UPLIFT at Harding is always a great week, although we started a bit shaky but the week end on some great notes.  We left bright and early on Saturday morning but a couple of hours into the drive we had a blow out in van 2.  And yes it is the 666 license plate van.  We have to get that changed before Missouri next month.  Made for a stressful rest of the day; running behind.  Day 2 we spent in the ER with a student we thought was having appendicitis.  She ended up heading back to Cleburne for more testing.  She is doing better.  Day 3 we spent the afternoon at the doctor’s office for a student with Strep throat.  From then on things ran very smoothly.  Day 4 and 5 were great.

Day 5 was the highlight of my week though.  I was done teaching for the week so I got to just hang out with kids that morning.  After lunch I went and hung out with coach Fullerton my college baseball coach.  I had not gotten to see him in several years, so it was great to catch up.  That afternoon we played a lot.  I played in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament with Ben and Trent.  Well, we played 1 game anyway.  We lost 10 to 8.  Then several of us played some volleyball and dominated.  We won 4 straight and then lost our focus and lost our final game.  Britany challenged Makalah to a race so we went out to the track and they raced in the 200 meter which Britany won… and Makalah almost died.  Then the rest of us ran a 100 meter which Taylor won with a blown out knee.  Our group devo that evening was amazing.  It was one of the highlights of the week.  We spent an hour and a half encouraging each other.  Such a great evening!  The evening was topped off with Mary Beth making the decision to give her life to Christ in baptism.

At times youth ministry can be very frustrating because you are dealing with people.  Kids make dumb decisions, things go wrong and summers can be very tiring.  But it is days like Tuesday and Wednesday that remind me why I do love Youth Ministry.  I love hanging out with students, I love seeing them grow and I love seeing them make decisions to follow Christ.


CREATING MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS IN STUDENT MINISTRY

How well do you remember Middle School?  I hated middle school.  The world around me was changing and even my own “world” was changing, if you know what I mean.

Then there was high school and college.  From the age of 11 through about 25, your world never stops changing.  Throw into the mix unstable home environments for many, bullying and the constant desire to advance up the social ladder, it is no wonder why these can be some of the most difficult years in a young person’s life.  What if the church had a different way to respond to the problems?  For years youth ministry has seen the incredible value of creating adult relationships within the context of student ministry.  Now others such as Chuck Bomar (Slow Fade) are coming in and saying the relationships are the key to the transition from High School to College.  What if student pastors and ministers had an even bigger picture of the life of a student and possible impact of their ministry?

The national average tells us around 60% of church kids will walk away from their faith before they graduate from college.  I believe there are several reasons this is happening.  However, instead of just stating problems I want to talk about solutions.  I want to help equip parents better disciple their own children.  I also want to help teenagers connect and develop relationships with other adults in the church, to encourage them and help them to bridge the gaps during times of transitions.  This is where TRANSIT comes in.  Transit will be focus around several key transitional times in the life of a teenager.  First, the move from 5th to 6th grade.  This is an enormous jump in adolescences.  The second jump is from 8th to 9th grade with the transition from Jr High to High School.  The next significant transition is moving from Junior year into Senior Year.  The final key transition comes as they make the jump from High School to college.  Of course there are other milestones that will occur along the way, but I want to focus on these four times.

At Westhill, I have been thinking through transitions for students.  The one thing I am discovering is the transitions are constant.  But what if the relationships we were creating for students to transition from High School to college were the same relationships the student had when they transitioned from 5th grade into 6th when they entered our ministry?  How could this work?  What would it look like?

So here is my plan is to begin this May with students who are finishing 5th grade and moving into 6th grade.  We are going to have a memorable weekend designed for parents and their students.  We will spend time worshiping together as families; and praying over each other, helping to equip parents and students for this huge time of transition.  The weekend will end for the new 6th graders with a Rite of Passage Ceremony.  Parents will sit down with their son or daughter and help them to pick out 3 or 4 adults in our church they consider to significant in their life.  The adults along with their parents will make up the group.  During this ceremony, the adults which the student has invited will share some positive character attributes they see in the student and each adult will give the student a specific charge.  The ceremony is built around 6 key topics, FAITH, HOPE, LOVE, PURITY, INTERGRITY & FAMILY (Concept taken from James McBride’s Rite of Passage).  To close the ceremony, I will give these adults a special charge to walk with these students through Jr. High and High School.  The mentor’s goal becomes helping in their transition into college and career and to them get connected to a church, no matter where they end up.  My desire is this relationship is one that will last a lifetime.

So how do we keep these relationships fresh and the commitment strong?  My hope is to come back each year through Jr. High and High School and have something geared toward the 6 key topics.  Not a full ceremony every year because I think it would lose significance.  Still having something every year to pull the student, parents and adults back together to re-commit to their walk together.  During these events I want to provide parents and students with resources that will be helpful to them in their journey.  My desire for our student ministry to start focusing as much time on the mentors and parents as we do the students.

Here is what I am thinking right now as far as special weekends.

  • 6th Grade – Ceremony – Transition from Elementary to Jr. High
  • 7th Grade – Purity Covenant with parents and the group
  • 9th Grade – Transition from Jr. High to High School
  • 16th Birthday (Equip Parents to do their own Rite of Passage ceremony with their son or daughter.  Rite of Passage is a great resource for the ceremony.)
  • Finishing 11th Grade – Preparing for the next step
  • Finishing 12th Grade – Tying this into our Senior Sunday and allowing the group of mentors to each give a charge, a blessing and a gift to each student.

So these are my initial thoughts and I would love to hear yours as I continue to develop these ideas in our ministry.  As I mentioned, I am beginning with our 6th graders this May so give me some of your thoughts.