how to make old ladies in the church hate you...

Youth ministers are normally viewed as people who live in the basement, play video games all day, and sleep whenever they want (thus the reasons we have couches in our offices). People view the youth in the church as the church of tomorrow because today, there is not much significance to them being an overall part of the church. When I write this, I see this disjointed view of youth ministry and the church as a whole.

In today's churches, we are trying to effectively reach the communities where we are by becoming YMCA's with a cross. However, we don't want to offend some folks so we choose to move forward with the norm of life, while offering outside courses to be located in a church, thus bringing people in. Youth ministry is the same thing! Big events to draw the crowds only to come to find the side show circus act that was promised is more or less the traveling fair with broken rides.

I am writing very metaphorically right now. I want to see how youth ministry can change. I've done before, I've claimed lessons to be my own that aren't. I download from simply youth, youth specialties, and many other websites and say to the church (on my chair so everyone can hear me) HEY! LOOK HOW CREATIVE I AM! LOOK! I AM AWESOME! YOUTH LOVE ME! YOU SHOULD TOO!

I don't know about you, but I am tired of having the spot light on me. If everything is on my shoulders, life would have ended a long time ago. Let me explain my random thought process here.

  • To often we are trying to scoot by with doing nothing. With the internet and all these youth ministry sites, things are easily there for the taking. QUIT BEING A WUSS!
  • We enjoy taking time to play video games, napping, and going out to eat with students whenever we want. Disregarding the rules of the church or laws. STOP BEING AN @$$!
 Youth ministry is NOT about being BUDDIES and then speaking about God OCCASIONALLY! Youth ministry is about showing, revealing, and living out the Living God to all those around you (adults to babies)!

I have slacked off too much in my career. I am guilty! But things recently have changed my perspective.  I am leaving a group I absolutely love (in the next 6 weeks) to go onto another church. I am leaving my comfortable chair, my warm huge office, a staff that isn't in my business all the time; to a church that I know not a lot about. I am scared. I have questioned my choices from time to time. I look at this moment and know God is telling me simply to Go. I am not the face of youth ministry. There are 14,000 blogs per 1 youth minister in a church position! I am NO ONE special. But I am carrying out the WORK OF GOD! THAT IS SPECIAL!

Youth ministers, I want you to TURN OFF the xbox! Dress like you are actually an adult in an adult environment. Be a part of the church, and actually minister to students and not be their buddy all the time. I am tired of calling out youth ministers and challenging to change the course and direction of youth ministry. I am tired of being the one catalyst where I called Mark Matlock Vader and Youth Specialties the Mother Ship (which in retrospect should've been the Death Star but I am not that nerdy). I am ready to encourage others to be better in ministry. It is SO easy to be a talking head like this, but it is NOT easy to deal with the aftermath. How can I, one youth minister/volunteer/lover of students help and pray for you, another youth minister/volunteer/ lover of students to be better in ministry? How can we encourage each other with love and truth to shape youth ministry into the next 30 years? How can I be a better servant of God and serve you? Write some comments or prayer requests below. MUCH MORE TO COME in the coming days!

the shock factor...

There are times when I hear about pastors and churches doing something so extreme, I think of Kevin in Home Alone. I slap my hands on my face and want to scream as loud as possible!
In youth ministry, we can take scare and shock tactics to students in order to help people come to Christ at an instant.

Let me start by being a little transparent. I have  done my fair share of shock factors. I have one talk in my pocket, where I line up 4 metal chairs and slam them on the hard floor to make a point. It is loud and shocking and gets students attention. However, after that talk, where do I go from there.

Are we prepared for the damaged we cause students when we force people into being a Christian. We wonder why statistics are saying that 80% of students do not go back to church after graduating. Why are we letting the bottom fall out?

Recently, God opened probably one of the biggest doors of my youth ministry career. It was a time of humble speech, listening, forgiveness, and grace. For me, I experienced a burden off of my heart that I had prayed and thought about almost weekly. I even tried to count certain people off, but I could never let it leave my mind. Regardless, the point is, that through this experience, we as youth minister can be lone rangers. We want to do it our way, put our mark on the group, and leave with a huge budget deficit and for a church that appears greener on the other side. And we do this all within 17 months.

Friends, I want to warn us about something that has been on my heart for a while. We ALL know that relational ministry is the key to growing a youth ministry. And I have learned that I do not get along with everyone. It was shocking to me! However, through this self realization, I have come to learn to lean on Christ more and to simply ask other to lean on Christ with me. I can't do it alone.

If you are looking to get more students in the group, or more butts in seats; stay away from the carnival acts. Next time it has to be bigger and better. When I gave my chairs talk, I don't think I would have been prepared if revival came all through the students and everyone became believers right then. I was more preoccupied with me than Christ, even when speaking about Christ.

Look to Christ to point you to others as well. It is good to be upfront, you're paid or volunteer your time for things like this, however, do not do it all on your own. The shock factor for us is to admit when we need help, and sadly that time for me was 1 1/2 years later.

follow me...

For some time, the idea of being a follower has never stuck with me. I have always wanted to tread my own path. For as far back as I can remember, I would claim to make my own path, be creative, do my own things, but in the end, I found that I am simply following the trend. I am still part of the MASS of people herding through life aimlessly at times.

The idea that a follower is a bad thing needs to be taken from your memory. We honestly are all followers. Look at your family for example. You are following the legacy of your parents or caregiver that raised you. You are following a ladder at work to earn more money. We are following others who tell us what trends are in ANY hobby that we have. We are designed to follow. The question is, who or what are we following?

For me, I measured myself by the people I knew, the people my dad and brother knew, how many nice things I have, and how much money I can make people think I have. Our lives are not about our things, where we have gone, who we know, or how many assets we can claim on our taxes. The things to know are simply that we need to follow Jesus.

Jesus said it plainly to disciples, "FOLLOW me and I will make you fishers of men." If that doens't get your attention you need to check your pulse. Jesus knew exactly how to talk to people and how to love people no matter what. Even in my own life, my church, we see judgement handed down daily. I also feel and fear judgement daily.

I have tried to walk to my own path, I have tried to march to my own drum, that when I look to the side; I realized that I am simply walking on the fringe of where society wants me to go. I have been a sheep with blinders on this whole time. I am 27. Where have the years of my life gone? What have I done effectively for the Kingdom of God? What will happen when I leave this earth? How can Jesus, let alone my wife and friends and family, love someone as lowly and dumb as me?

I battle with a lot of things. I stumble almost daily. God has called us to follow HIM, not society. We must walk against the grain and move forward. Watch this video below. Watch the dancing man earn a first followers and how infectious it becomes in such a quick amount of time. Will you be a first follower and join in the dance with Jesus or will you be sitting on the side wondering why people are dancing in the first place.


Youth Ministry "Expert"...

I have taken a sabbatical from writing on either of my blogs. When I say sabbatical, I really mean I have been lazy and have not been in the writing mood. In fact, the last time I wrote a blog, I was "asked" to removed it and apologize from my end. I was also ousted and hounded by the "celebrities" of the youth ministry world; though there were the few that actually reached out to me to give me a chance to say what I meant before jumping off the deep end. However, that time has come and gone.

I am not here to stand on a soap box and yell at the crowd "REPENT OR YOU ARE GOING TO HELL! THE MOTHER SHIP IS LEADING YOU IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!!!" Honestly, I have had my share of attacks on the youth ministry world. For so often, I have been pointing out my proverbial index finger at all the wrong, yet looking back at it, I have three more fingers pointing right back at me. Then I begin to ask myself, what is wrong with me? Why am I not succeeding? Why don't people know who I am yet? I was convinced I would be on the speaking circuit making the money and book deals, all while grabbing the t-shirt, from every church and youth ministry conference in the free world.

Have you ever had that dream? Do you, the youth minister, want a voice? Do you want to be discovered? Do you want to find the secret formula to make ministry work? My lofty goals and high expectations of myself always seem to come crashing down. In the end, my foundation has been shaky and weak at best. I can DO youth ministry all day long, but am I really making the difference in the lives of the students that walk through my youth ministry doors every week? That is where I am failing.

I think a lot of youth ministers have this same struggle. We fight with ourselves, jump churches, steal from other youth ministries, try to reach to the popular crowds at school to bring in more people. I want to know about the unsung heroes of youth ministry. Those of us, who do not get to speak before thousands, hundreds or even in the double digits. Youth ministry is a family. A giant tangled web of emotion, ideas, conferences, fears, worries, doubt, and strengths.

I am no youth ministry "expert", though I have seen that in a persons title before. I don't know what makes people an expert, but in the end, we need to gather together to pray for each other, lift the spirits of each other, and do it at a fiscal amount. I know several youth ministers who are working 2 jobs, one as a youth minister for the students in their small community and the other to support their families. That has GOT to be tough! I am blessed to have a full time job.

Youth Ministry people of the world...All seven readers that read this blog, let us look not to figure out the next great model of ministry. Lets not look to the future to plan amazing gimmicks and fundraising ideas. Lets not look at other ministries and say, I will do that because it works for them.
Let us look at ourselves, list our fears and strengths, our doubts and our cares, our positives and negatives, and lay them at the feet of Jesus. If there is one thing I have learned, it is simply this: I am not equipped to be a leader. I have laid that dream at the foot of Christ. I am equipped only be a follower of Jesus, and to be a first follower, so that more followers join in the dance with us.

We are not leaders. We can't be! Leadership models are the way of the past and has polluted our thinking to the fact that we feel we must build leaders...but what about those who are meant to be followers? Leaders can't build leaders. Leaders must follow someone else. I want us to throw our ministry "expert" caps off and jump into the dance that is following Jesus. That is where we will have our "success" in ministry. This is where we will make disciples. That is where we will fall in love each day, hour, minute and second, with the man who stepped down from perfection, to lead a perfect life, and to take a sinless death to pay IN FULL for yours and my sins.

I am no youth ministry expert, but I believe that being a follower is MUCH more important than being a leader.

What are your fears, strengths, weakness', positives, negatives, doubt about youth ministry as a family and your youth ministry? Post below so that we may uplift and pray for you.

it's been a while...

For a few months I have taken a hiatus from writing in general. I am writing a book, great. However, I looked at the heart of the issue, and from recent blog posts that I wrote (which have been removed) I wrote some very hurtful and wrong comments about things. Sometimes being young, we make mistakes and prove that no matter how "experienced" we think we are, we always can learn more.

In youth ministry, we have a tendency to get big heads and egos. Students love us and it makes us feel like the popular person, and sometimes we can get this sense of passage where we deserve this. I want us to think about one issue, is our youth group built around you or Christ?

This question is NOTHING new to youth ministry. We have those who have the personality to attract tons of students, and through that butts fill seats, couches and bean bags. Others try to develop with smaller groups. We try to emulate other ministries and do what they are doing. We aspire to have the next greatest piece of technology or curriculum or book. We look up to those who are considered ministry "experts". We go to conferences and come back with big ideas and no way to lay those plans out. Ministry is frustrating at times. Then, for those of us who are married or even working another job, we have another aspect of life to juggle.

Here is what I want to get at today. There will always be another ministry "expert" out there to tell us and encourage us in youth ministry. I have been to several conferences and this is what happens! Yet, every single ministry requires different work. Some have such hard core discipleship and small numbers. Others have huge numbers and are wading in the baby pool. Regardless of your situation in your youth ministry, the only way discipleship will happen is if we turn OUR eyes, hearts, ears, and hands to Christ. We can not be the molder of the clay, we can only be a tool to help in the process.

Also, there needs to be a revival in the homes of our youth. This is where we turn leadership and discipleship training to parents and caregivers. In most churches, there is always a 90-10 rule, 10% of the people do 90% of the work. Parents can view youth ministry as a way to get their teenager out of trouble for a few hours so they can get chores done. Others view it as an avenue where they expect to see spiritual growth and maturity through the youth group activities. MY role as the youth minister of my church is to HELP and ENCOURAGE students to a relationship with Christ, and through that avenue, move them into disciples of Christ.

Yet, there is a disconnect from the home to the church, sometimes. Pageants, sports, non-church going friends can all be hindrances to the development of students. I have had a parent tell me that they pray over their meals and that this would be the right amount of spiritual growth they need.

I look at the church as parable of the woman at the well. She came to get a drink of water, just to quench her thirst for that time, yet Jesus, in HIS amazing and Jesus way transformed her into a bubbling spring of eternal water, where she will never grow spiritually thirsty again. The church is not a coke machine. Just put our money in, get us some Jesus to go, and be good until the next time you are thirsty.

I want us to look at ourselves, the youth pastors, but I also want to challenge us to bring unity into church and into the homes. Pray for a revival in the life of your church and see where God and Christ will lead you!

Apology

Wow. Where to begin. First off, I am sorry to ANYONE I offended. I wrote out of frustration and the vent came across as anger. I have a lot to learn when it comes to ministry but also acting Christ like. I have deleted the posts that have been causing some buzz. I wrote personal attacks on people and companies I always looked up to. Now I am at rock bottom because of the things I said and I am embarrassed about the way I represented Christ (which I didn't) and myself.

To all those I hurt and offended, I am sorry. You read a blog that was unedited and raw. It was written with passion. I would like to take a minute and share my heart if you don't mind reading a little further (trust me there are no more personal attacks).

Youth ministry has been my calling. I have never felt more passionate about ANYTHING in my life. I know this is what God placed me here for. I am sure that there are many of us out there that think and feel the same way. We might only be good at taking orders at Taco Bell or doing youth ministry, so we go the youth ministry route and take students to Taco Bell. My heart beats for reaching students for Christ. It is passion in me.

Over the past few years, my youth ministry ride has taken it's up and downs and its plateaus. It has been a ride that only Christ can make happen and I wouldn't change a thing. Recently, I let the world grab a hold of me, and let my emotions boil and explode under pressure before I really knew what I was doing. My blog normally brings 50 people...if that. I was expecting 80 people to read the post. Over the past 48 hours my blog has had over 1400+ views. There has been discussion and mostly in the fact that my vent came across as angry and vindictive. The vindictive and personal attacks were true, I did write that and I can't justify the reason why. The anger issue is wrong. It was frustration.

My whole goal is to do two things: I want to open up the "debate" about youth ministry moving to a family ministry model. I also want to help find a voice (which obviously won't be mine) for the smaller churches in the youth ministry world. Sometimes we can see how Saddle Back (as an example) and other big churches do youth ministry and we try to emulate it. We have gone commercial with our programming and we sometimes, and I am guilty of this, get lazy. We spend a lot of time on xbox and other forms of entertainment and kind of let the others do our work for us.

I think that the turn in youth ministry should be about community. Right now, I am on the outside looking in from my recent posts, but we need to look outside our windows. We see houses or streets with students walking by each day. This is another opportunity to reach a student and to be the image of Christ. We need to quit relying on the church to fill our ministry, and let God fill it with the spirit first, discipleship, evangelism and from there to reach out break barriers of race, financial status and language. We, as youth leaders, should be looking at community. However, I want to know what others think.
Do you feel we should move to a family ministry model? How do you see youth ministry going? Do you feel smaller churches have a voice in helping determine that factor?

This was the intent of my previous blog posts, which have since been deleted. I am sorry that I took a vindictive, talking head approach. In the end, I caused little discussion about the issue and brought only hurt and lost credibility. In the end, no matter my "status" as a youth ministry all star or not, I only care about honoring Christ. I failed miserably at that and I am sorry all those I hurt and I missed a HUGE opportunity to help raise awareness in a Christian manner. Again, I am sorry.

chain breakers...

On my blog, about eight months ago, I published a series of posts about my father's and my relationship as I was growing up. Through out these posts, I was barraging truth and pain from my past, and left it open for the world to see. As I look back on it, these posts helped me reach people who had problems with their fathers, it helped me receive a book deal, and it opened myself up to A LOT of criticism from my family and friends. It would seem as though I didn't love my father and that I resented him my whole life. None of that is further from the truth.

For a while, I felt like there was a distance between my father and I, and that was before I turned into an adult, where I could see more into his life than as a child. Now, I also see his faults in life. Regardless, he is still my father.

I have been thinking a lot about ministry and my personal life. As a youth minister, I set boundaries in the ministry I have been blessed to look over. I do not spend all my free time with students. I build relationships on grounds that are appropriate and don't break any laws or rules that the church has set. I also try to separate my home life from my ministry, but being so enthralled into ministry, I find the separation VERY hard.

As I look at my life now, I can honestly say I still talk to my father. It hurts because I know his past. The hero fell from grace. Yet, I can look at my life and I can ask myself, "Do I want to continue this type of life? Do I want to break the chains of my past and start a family based on Biblical principles and morals?" I also ask myself the question that, if sin is heretical, am I in trouble? We pick up on things, even subconsciously through our parents. We may not realize it as children, but now I am the one responsible for the sin in my life. I make the choices.

When it comes to ministry, sometimes we claim to be as transparent as we can be. This is not always the case. As I continue to grow and mature in my relationship with Christ, my walk with Christ, my relationship with my wife and OUR family, my parents and siblings, I see a pattern. I see that I may think that I am right A LOT of times. I may think that I know best. I may think that no matter how much I try to NOT be like my father, I have inherited qualities, both good and bad from him and my mother.

Today, I am choosing to be a chain breaker. I can not blame my sin now, from my parents mistakes. I choose sin from time to time and I choose Christ from time to time. I have to have a relationship with my father in Heaven before ANYONE else even comes close.

As I look to grow in my walk with Christ and as I become a father, whenever that may happen, I want to see myself as a person that chose Christ over his job. I want to see myself as a person who put family first and ministry second. I may have boundaries in my ministry and my life, but I need to make sure that my priorities are set before ANYTHING else can fall into place.

movement...

It's tough to look at ourselves in the mirror sometimes. We can often look at our lives and make excuses for where we are, what we have done, or even what we will do; or we can look at ourselves and admit where we have fallen, give God glory for the times we have reached and climbed over peaks, and cry when we look at the sin in our lives.

There comes a time in every persons life, ministry, job etc where we have to look at ourselves. So often we are trying to make movement happen, but we are on a plateau in a stagnant pond that NOTHING is happening. Do you ever feel this way? Do yo feel as though you try so hard and nothing happens?

I looked at myself in the mirror for the first time in a while. I didn't like what I saw. At first glance I see a youth minister, a husband, a son, a grandson, and a brother. At closer inspection I see a liar, a cheater, a sinful man. At closer look, I see a person struggling to stay afloat when the waves are crashing around him. At an even CLOSER look, I see someone who barely knows how to swim jumping into the deep end off the high dive (knowing that I am afraid of heights and not in top physical condition to swim).

Ministry can be the same way. So often we want movement in the youth ministries we are serving that we will sometimes create the illusion that it is. Same thing with our lives, we will so often want movement that appears good on the outside but on the inside it is stagnant. We need to reverse the mirror this morning and instead of placing blame on parents, lack of workers, size of the group, geograhpic location of the church, funds from the church or anything else, we need to take deep looks at ourselves.

My question to you, the husband/wife, the son/daughter/, the brother/sister, the grandchild, the youth worker, the desk jockey, the unemployed person, the real you is this; if you told the mountain to move, RIGHT NOW, could you do it? More than likely, if you're in my position the answer will be a resounding HECK NO!

I cannot increase my faith. I believe I have faith 100% of the time. It is the question of where I place my faith. Is my faith in myself, my surroundings, my possessions, etc or is my faith in the God who placed those mountains there and if He wanted to could turn them into an ant hill in the flick of His finger? Our faith is HUGE on who we are as people and who we are as servants in this world.

I tell my students all the time that we need to be a sign post for Jesus, pointing people towards Him and not away from Him. We need to point people towards Heaven and not towards earth. I can't say I do this all the time. Sometimes I preach from behind the mirror so the students or those around me can only see themselves and not me. The mirror has been reversed, now. I have looked at myself, my ministry, my life and I am turning towards Christ, because I don't like what I see.

In my mirror I see little movement. I see more than one sign, those pointing to me and smaller ones that point to Jesus. I am having a makeover, and it is where I only have two signs, my biggest sign will point to Jesus to cause that movement, my other sign is my life pointing at the bigger sign (still causing constant movement). I will live courageously as Jesus has called me to, I will have faith in Christ to move mountains, I will be able to do all things because it is Christ who will be my strength; and at the end of the day, it will be because of Christ that He has allowed all things (good or bad) to happen to me.

Where is the movement in your ministry or your personal life? Post a comment and share where you have made movements towards Christ in your youth ministry or your life, to cause less of you and more of Jesus.

myself...

Today, I woke up and I decided that I am ready to start blogging again. For those of you who used to keep up with me on my blog, as I tried to write a few a week, have probably noticed it has been as barren as a desert for the past few months. Let me give you an update on my life and where my renewed sense of life has been.

First off, I have been writing a book. I got a contract through a GREAT publishing company. The book is titled "Reverse Youth Ministry" and it is touching on the ideas that the way general youth ministry is done is not where we should be heading. I argue, in my book and practice in my own ministry, that in order to get bigger you need to get smaller first. This is through prayer, discernment, wisdom, crazy antics, and pure fellowship with Christ that your group should reduce in size, increase in discipleship, and from there possibly grow numerically, depending on where you and your church is located (geographically speaking).

Second, I have ALSO decided to start my Masters. This is crazy and through a series of events that ONLY Christ can put together, I will finish my Masters in six months. However, the work load is STILL heavy and I can't slack off or sleep through class. My classes are online. Thank you Lord for that.

Now I am at the point where I am today. Today, I feel that I am ready to blog. Today, I feel that Christ has put something on my heart that is worth writing about, aside from papers and book pages. Today, I feel that I am dead to myself and alive in Christ. This is a TRULY amazing feeling.

Over recent months I have passed a few mile stones in life and in my ministry. I have been at my church for over a year now and planning and scheduling could never be better. I feel that our church is pointing in the direction that Christ wants us to go in. We have started our "growth groups" or small groups, and that is an amazing feature that God has helped us connect with people, outside of my youth ministry, that are close to my age. My wife is enjoying this fellowship as well.

In our youth ministry, we have committed to going to Puerto Rico this summer. Only a handful of students are going, but I know God is going to bless us.

And through all of this, I have had several nay sayers (that I hear through other people) about my ministry and how I am not doing what used to be done or how I am not giving their children the experience prior children had. At first this bothered me. I don't like people not liking me or the job that I feel Christ is leading me to give. However, over prayer and time with wiser counsel, I have forgiven these people, even though I have not been confronted face to face with any accusations or problems, just through word of mouth. It is freeing to know that God is stirring waters because that means there is movement coming.

For a while though, I was doing this by myself. Taking on the time to do things myself and trying to lead the group myself. It was all about me. I had some good things come my way and so I felt good about myself. My pastor gave a sermon on Mark 9:14-27 this past Sunday and titled his sermon "Meager Faith". I was shocked to see similarities between me and the father of the demon possessed man and even between me and the disciples. Unbelief and faith in myself more than faith in God. I, and others in our small group, came to the conclusion that it is not how great our faith in God is, it is faith in our Great God.

This has sat with me through the night and this morning into my devotional reading. I am striving to be a better husband to my wife, a better spiritual leader for our family and future family when that time comes, a better youth pastor that follows God's will and direction (not my own), a better mentor to students who need love and care, a better friend to my friends, a better son to my father and mother, a better brother to my brothers, a better grandson to my grandparents, a better disciple and servant to Christ and other believers and non believers alike and the list can continue. It seems I needed improvement. My ministry needed improvement.

I want to encourage you today. I want you to see (or read in this case) that the world is built around us and our instant gratification, but without Christ we are nothing. We, as servants, need to be chain breakers. If sin exists in our families, break the chain. If sin exists in your life, break the chain. If pride, selfishness and greed live in your life, break the chain. If we are trying to live our goals through our children or students, break the chain. Live ONLY for Christ. That is where our source comes from. That is our eternal spring where we ONLY thirst for Him and His word. Break the chains of ourselves and live FREELY in Christ today! Start a legacy wherever you are to live for Christ, raise others towards Christ, and serve others as the hands and feet of Christ.
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