Thursday, December 4, 2014

A New Model of Discipleship

Yesterday myself and 3 other local youth ministers gathered at a local school to hangout and eat lunch with our students. When we finished we reconvened at a local wing restaurant to hang out and as most youth ministers do, talk shop a bit. One thing that stuck out in our conversation was discipleship and what that looks like now. We can all agree that the current model of youth ministry discipleship is broken. We learned that the '90's style of youth ministry as it is often referred to was great at evangelism. In the 90's we got really good at getting kids in the doors and presenting the Gospel and getting their 'get out of hell free cards' punched. What we were left with were a lot of students (my generation by the way) who had seeds planted but the roots never grew deep. This isn't always the case because I'm here and am a result of good discipleship BUT the majority left the church because of shallow roots. 

So we talked about what biblical discipleship looked like. It really got me to thinking about what discipleship worked in my life and how it matched up with Jesus discipleship strategy. I've came up with a few common denominators.

Parental Discipleship:
Looking at what Jesus childhood probably looked like, knowing how Jew's historically passed on their faith. We know that Jesus' earthly parents taught him scripture from and early age. We know Jesus prayed the Shema and was taught these things at an early age. 

Most current research supports the fact that students who's faith sticks typically have parents who teach, support, and nurture their child's faith. Teens may say that their parents have no influence on them but statistics show otherwise.

Mentor Discipleship:
Jesus had the 12 disciples but we know He was closer to three and was extremely close to one. We know the power of one on one discipleship. We can see this in Paul and Timothy. We know the power of an older mentor and a young student. 

When you have a one on one mentor discipleship relationship with a student that student gets the condensed teachings. In a large group settings our students are getting a over arching view of what we are teaching, we just cannot condense everything and reach everyone in a simple lesson. When we have that one on one mentorship we are able to really unpack teachings and show them what being a Christian means.

Experiential Discipleship:
Jesus not only taught the disciples, he sent them out to put their faith into practice. Not only did Jesus do that but He often did it without a safety net. He didn't walk around the with the disciples all the time and hold their hands while they cast out demons and spread the Good News. He also told them they would fail but if they failed to knock the dust off their feet and keep on keeping on. 

Jesus knew the power of on the job training. How often do we turn out students loose with no safety net? I'm not advocating just turning students loose on something with no oversight as far as their own safety, but I am saying students should have more ownership of the ministry then we often give them. Experiential Discipleship revolves around students experiencing Jesus on their own. We not only just set up a mission trip but we give them opportunities to lead and experience Jesus on their own.

Self Discipleship:
The disciples did not stop growing in their faith when Jesus ascended. We know that they gathered together for prayer and the reading and studying of scripture. We know that they grew on their own. Students who want their faith to be unshakeable after high school should learn certain habits to grow on their own. Things like a consistent prayer life, consistent reading and studying of scripture, constantly sharing their faith. Notice I say consistent, if they only time that a student does these things is at youth group, they are in trouble. 

As youth ministers we should encourage and equip students to do this on their own. Provide resources but not only that. We should be checking in individually with out students and checking on their spiritual growth and encouraging them along.

We have this misconception that discipleship is lessons and head knowledge. That if we teach a lesson we are discipling teenagers. This couldn't be further from the truth. Teaching them the Bible and the Gospel are certainly part of discipleship but we know that head knowledge is only part of the battle. Students have to put flesh on that knowledge. So what does the new model of discipleship look like? I'm not sure we've found it yet but it should certainly include these aspects. Until next time! Just keep swimming! 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Product Review: Fund the Nations T-Shirts

While looking for a better fundraising T-shirt option than Tee Spring a friend recommended the company Fund the Nations. He has used them for a few years and has enjoyed them. So I decided to check them out. I actually needed a few t-shirts designed. So far they have designed me two t-shirts and both designs are awesome. It also just so happened that I got a free t-shirt from them while I was at NYWC. It is the same style shirt that we are ordering and it gave me the privilege of a test drive!

NYWC Shirt:

It is an awesome shirt! Super soft, even after washing and hang drying. My dyer tends to shrink t-shirts so we machine wash with liquid fabric softener and hang dry. This tends to stiffen up regular t-shirts even after one wash. Not this tee! It is still very soft and is quickly becoming one of my favorite shirts. The design is cool. It is a two ink design, front print only, on a premium shirt. The design is made with an ink that has sunk into the tee versus your normal cheap mom and pop screen printing that just layers the ink on top of the shirt and has a tendency to crack up.

The shirt itself is a Tultex 0241 Men's Blend T-shirt. It is a 65% polyester/ 35% cotton blend side seamed, ribbed crew neck shirt. It has taped neck and shoulders with double needle sleeve and bottom hem. Another interesting feature is the tear away label for those who like to go label-less. More info on the Tultex 0241 Shirt can be found here.

Youth Group Shirt:
One of the designs I needed was a youth group T-shirt. Just one to sell to our teens and do give aways with. I gave them our youth group logo and told them to get creative with it. This is the design they came up with. It is pretty cool in my opinion!

Church Fundraiser Shirt:
This is the shirt that I had them design to sell to our church members to help us raise funds for Camp. We've found that a church shirt design would be more popular with our church members than a youth design. So we gave them our church info and our church slogan. We asked them to design an one ink dual sided print to save some money but still maintain a quality shirt. This was the design they made for us for it.

If you are looking for a great place to get premium t-shirts made with a  great design and done inexpensively; look no further than Fund the Nations. You can find a link for them on my blog!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Guest Post: 5 Reasons We Don't Make Disciples

Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he gave Christ followers the command to “make disciples.”(Matthew 28:19-20) He stated that His command was based upon the fact that He possessed all authority in Heaven and on Earth.(Matthew 28:18) Yet, when one examines the decline in conversions and church members in Southern Baptist churches, it is apparent that we as a denomination are not being obedient to the com- mand to “make disciples” in the Great Commission. In this post, I offer five major reasons why we do not make disciples.
  1. We don’t love God. Jesus told His disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”(John 14:15 ESV) He is not implying that we will live a life of perfection here, but He refers to the overall posture or trajectory of our lives. We turn from loving ourselves to loving Christ. We turn from loving our sin, including sins of omission, to loving Christ. If we encounter someone who repeatedly sins in a particular area and never repents of that sin, we would say that the individual does not show evidence of repentance and is probably not a disciple; however, the willful refusal to make disciples is a sin of omission against Christ. Can we claim to love and follow Jesus and yet willfully disobey His command to make dis- ciples in light of John 14:15? If we love God, we will make disciples.

  2. We don’t love people. Paul states that the love of Christ compels him to share the gospel of reconcilia- tion as an ambassador of Christ.(2 Corinthians 5:11-20) This love refers both to his love for Jesus and to his love for people who don’t know Christ. When Jesus encounters the leper in the Gospel of Mark, His love moves Him to touch and heal the man.(Mark 1:40-45) The Good Samaritan’s love moves him to act and save the man left wounded on the side of the road.(Luke 10:33-34) Can we say we love our neighbor and not share the gospel with him/her? Can we say we love people and not seek to lead them to Jesus? If we love people, we will make disciples.

  3. We don’t think sharing the gospel is essential for salvation. A recent poll states that 92% of evangelicals believe that people are saved only through Jesus Christ; however, another survey of Protestant church attenders indicates that 48% of Protestants believe that people can obtain eternal life by sincerely following other religions apart from Christianity. Do we really believe that disciples sharing the gospel and making disciples is the only way people will come to saving faith in Christ? Do we think people can find God through other religions as long as they are sincere? Do we think people will receive the gospel apart from the church pursuing the Great Commission by seeking to make disciples? If we believe in the exclusivity of Christ and the need to share the gospel verbally, we will make disciples. 
  1. We don’t share the gospel because we are afraid. Some self-professed Christ followers do not share the gospel because they are afraid of rejection by the unchurched. They might also fear losing a relationship if they share the gospel. It is significant that Jesus’ last words in the Great Commission are, “And be- hold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20 ESV) Christ promises His presence to allay our fears. We can also take encouragement from the evidence of how the Holy Spirit empowered and emboldened early Christians, sending them out to witness boldly.(Acts 4:31) Do we really believe that the Holy Spirit will empower our witness of the gospel? Do we believe in His ability to bring the spiritually dead to life? If we believe in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, we will be bold witnesses of the gospel.

  2. We don’t share the gospel because we do not feel sufficiently equipped. Another reason some people who claim the name of Christ do not share the gospel is they feel they lack training or knowledge to share with people. First, we must remember our role in sharing Christ. We are called to be witnesses who give testimony regarding Jesus and how He changed our lives.(Acts 1:8) We are also called to know God’s Word and the content of the gospel so that we can share God’s Word. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV) We do need to rely on Scripture and the content of the gospel found in Scripture in order to make disciples. Regular intake of Scripture will help to equip us for making disciples. Do we really be- lieve that our role is to be witnesses? Do we really believe that the gospel of Scripture can change lives? If we believe in the power of the gospel and the Word of God, we will use Scripture to make disciples.
None of the 5 reasons for not making disciples listed above sufficiently excuses us from disobeying the Great Commission. If we take sins of omission as seriously as we take sins of commission, our hearts should break over our failure to obey Jesus’ command to “make disciples.” So I ask us, do we love God? Do we love people? Do we believe the gospel is essential to salvation? Do we trust the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in sharing the gospel? Do we believe in the power of the gospel and the Word of God? If we answer “Yes” to these questions, we will make disciples. 

Dr. Tim McKnight is serving as an Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at Anderson University. Dr. McKnight has an earned Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has served as a youth pastor and senior pastor in several outstanding SBC churches.

You can find the link to Dr. McKnight's original post here: 5 Reasons We Don't Make Disciples

From Kevin: It is great to have Dr. McKnight sharing his posts here on LYMFB. Also keep your eyes peeled on, Dr. McKnights new project. Starting in 2015 you can find some guest posts from myself appearing on there!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So You Want to Start a Youth Ministry Blog? Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts on the basics of youth ministry blogging. I don't claim to know everything on this subject but a little over 3 years ago LYMFB started and I'm proud of what my little blog has been able to do. It has caused me to grow as a writer and opened doors for me to co-author with a bunch of great rural youth minister and guest blog opportunities on More than Dodgeball and the DYM Blog.

3 years ago LYMFB started as a joke between myself and a friend. As we were discussing youth ministry ideas and thoughts, he jokingly told me I should write a youth ministry blog. I didn't know the first thing about blogs, honestly I didn't even know what a blog was. But I thought, what a better way to get my voice heard?

If your reading this you might be thinking about starting a youth ministry blog, if so this post is for you. If you are reading and what some practical tips on youth ministry blogging, hang in there! The follow up posts in this series will cover those tips.

Here are some practical things about starting a youth ministry blog:

So what is your purpose?
Have a purpose for your blog from the get go! Like a youth ministry mission statement, having a purpose for your blog from the get go will help you shape and guide your posts. When I started my blog the entire purpose was just to get my voice heard in the youth ministry world. It has evolved over time and I would say the purpose of LYMFB is this:

LYMFB exists to bring practical tips on rural youth ministry, parent ministry, and general youth ministry to the masses. Providing youth ministers with practical application, product reviews, and thought provoking questions.

This purpose is what helps me select my subjects and guides my writing. If your looking for a deep theological youth ministry blog, your in the wrong spot! All my tips can apply to a wide variety of settings. So what is the purpose of your blog? If it is to record your journey as you battle cancer and how that applies to your youth ministry, make sure your posts reflect that. If it is to cover the sticky faith movement in the church, make sure your posts reflect that.

Post first.
Even though I don't post as often as I would like, when you first start your blog post as often as you can. If will cause you to be a better writer. The more often you post the better your writing will become. At first writing can be intimidating, especially if you haven't written anything in a long time. So write often. As you gain experience and a following on your blog you can be more selective about when you post.

Just write!
Here is the most magical tip that I can give you about blogging...just write! Your blog is a reflection of you, there is no right or wrong way to do it! There are certain things you can do to make your blog more successful BUT in the end if you want to be you and it gives you a creative outlet go for it!

When I was a senior in high school I nearly failed English class, my teacher told me I would never amount to anything as far as English and writing were concerned. As a result I hated writing, it still is not my favorite thing to do in the world, but it allows me to think things out, to put principles I know about youth ministry in black and white, and just generally makes me a more knowledgeable youth pastor. Two blogs, a lot of guest blog posts, magazine articles, and a (knock on wood) hopefully a book proposal later; I get the last laugh with my English teacher. So just be you, let your blog reflect your personality, let your identity come through in the words, and post about the things you are passionate about.

Hopefully this will give you encouragement as your are starting out! Stay tuned to LYMFB for more upcoming posts for ways to make your blog stand out! Until next time, Just Keep Swimming!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

NYWC Day 3 Recap

Big Room 4:
by Tullian Tchividjian

This big room session was great! In addition to learning that it is pronounced (Tull-ian, like mull) not (Too-lian). Tullian is know for emphasizing one thing beyond anything else, God's Grace. His message hit home so well. He said we tie our self worth into how we perform. Especially as youth workers. We tie our worth into what we accomplish, and when we fail we think was are not worth anything. We have traded the cross into a to do list. We forget everything has been accomplished for us, it is finished not just do it. Awesome reminder.

Family Rooms:

One awesome feature of NYWC were the family rooms. In the family rooms you form small groups with other youth ministers. We prayed for each other, talked about our specific settings, and to work through the themes that NYWC has. Awesome time!

Practical Tips to Improve your Speaking Chops
by Doug Fields

Doug asked us blogger types to please not blog about the contents of the workshop for two reasons, one: it is a new workshop and needs to have the kinks worked out & two: that he wants to eventually release this workshop online free so that everyone can benefit. I am going to honor that but I will say if you have a chance to take this workshop, do it! It really opened my eyes to the art of message delivery. I have always just kind of got up and spoke and not really thought about it. Doug pointed out some really practical tips and great points to think about as I deliver youth talks.


I don't want to name specifics on this workshop but I did not stay in it. One thing I noticed is this, when one is planning a workshop practical application is great. Don't take the entire first half of a workshop to set up your point. Youth workers are in these workshops to get practical application. If your application is very specific, help out the youth workers by giving them the basic principles behind your thesis don't assume they are going to figure out what those principles are.

YS Ideas Lab: Small Church Youth Ministry:
by Stephanie Caro

Mama Caro! This idea lab, which for those unfamiliar is a short interview on a small stage, was all about Small Church Youth Ministry. Stephanie knocked it out of the park as usual. If you are in a small church you owe it to yourself to take a workshop or listen to her talk about small church youth ministry. The one point that stuck out to me is one that I live by. Just because you are in a small church does not mean you can not do the same things as larger churches; it may look different but the principles are the same.

Big Room 5:
by Kara Powell

Kara is an awesome speaker. Her message revolved around how when we say yes to certain things we are saying no to others. When we say yes to something we are inevitably say no to something else. It was a great reminder to keep my priorities straight. Great talk!

Wrap up:
NYWC was an awesome conference. I will certainly be going back next year as they will be in my backyard, Louisville KY! Between the friendly atmosphere, the connections and community made in the Family Rooms, the great speakers, the massive exhibit hall, the freebies, the chance to talk to national speakers, the informative worships, and awesome time to unwind; it was a great weekend! Until next time my friends! Just keep swimming!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

NYWC Day 2 Recap

4 Ways to Have Great Production at your Events
by Student Life

One of the neat features of NYWC seems to be the small stages that are located in the middle of the exhibit area. On the Big Stuf stage this afternoon Student Life had a great presentation on production. While these are short 15 minute presentations do not get as in depth as a workshop but do have great info none the less.

1: Don't overshoot your capabilities. 
What are you capable of? If you are a small rural church, then the smoke machines and laser lights from events like NYWC are probably not something that your capable of. Take stock of what you have and find ways to implement that into a great strategy to pull off great production

2: Think outside the Sanctuary.
I'll change this to "Think outside the youth room". Good production should not be limited to your youth room. Some of the greatest programming has happened when a youth group was outside the youth room. Think about things like stations of the cross, prayer rooms. If your church has a huge hill near it think about going to that hill and having a series on the Sermon on the Mount.

3: Team work makes Dream work.
Even if your youth ministry is a small group, you still have a team. Think about the students in your youth ministry. Teenagers are some of the most creative people on the planet. Let them come along side you and contribute to their youth group. Some teens can pull off great graphic design on nothing more than their iPhone.

4: Go back to the Basics.
Great production doesn't have to be expensive. Snag a sale after Christmas at Lowes or Walmart on Christmas lights. Grab a ton of candles at the Dollar Tree. Troll Pintrest for cheap decorating and stage design elements.

Big Room 2:
by Tony Campolo

One thing I've learn going to conferences. Skip some stuff! I had every plan to attend Tony's big room session and I'm sure it was a great session BUT I honest went back to my room after lunch and just wanted to relax and unwind.

Best learning from this? Take some you time at a conference! Just because it's on the schedule doesn't mean you have to go! Take some you time, unwind, take some time to think things out and absorb what you've learned, think things out, take a nap, disconnect from technology and relax, find a youth minister you respect and take them out for coffee. But you don't have to do EVERYTHING at a conference!

Built to Last: Nurturing a Faith that Lives, Thrives, and Survives.
by Duffy Robbins

I love Duffy's stuff! Every time I've gone to a conference and also when I took course for my youth ministry certificate, I love Duffy's workshops. He is a great communicator and a great guy. In this workshop he addressed certain characteristics that youth ministries have who are fostering a long lasting faith in their students. Here are a few key things I picked up:

1: Some truths are so profound they cannot be taught from a distance.
The truth of Jesus is so profound that we cannot simply teach teenagers from the stage, we have to be incarnation and show them and live life with them.

2: Growth through the Spiritual Disciplines. 
Referencing Foster's book "Celebration of Discipline" (a great read by the way) Duffy pointed out certain spiritual disciplines that we should be encouraging teens to do to foster their faith growth. Prayer, Bible Study, and even Scripture Meditation.

Big Room 3:
by Chris Hill

Chris is hilarious! If you can ever get a chance to listen to him deliver the Word, do it! He has a natural knack weaving humor into his message. His message to us was, once we accepted the call and put our hand to the plow, Jesus calls us not to look back. When we accept God's call to be youth ministers, we are called not to look back or according to Jesus we are unfit for the kingdom.

Writing for Youth Ministry
by Terry Linhart and Ginny Olson

This class was awesome! Ginny and Terry provided a ton of practical information on how to get published, what a proposal looks like, we heard from the editor of Youth Worker Journal about what he looks for in a article. Great learnings.

Also myself and other bloggers in the room got to help give our insight into blogging for youth ministry. Which got me to thinking, I'm going to run a series of posts on my blog about getting started in youth ministry blogging, practical tips, how to be featured as a guest blogger on blogs, and how to take your blogging to the next level. I'm no expert, but that's not why I got started blogging, it was because I had something to say and a blog is an excellent place to start.

Also you will be seeing some guest blogs appear here as a few of the participants in the class were interested in posting here! I'm really excited about that!

Friday, November 21, 2014

NYWC Day 1 Recap

NYWC Day 1 was awesome! It was fast paced but fun. The grand opening of the exhibit area was CRAZY! Here are a few thoughts I had from day 1.

My First Two Years in Youth Ministry Workshop
by Katie Edwards and the "host" Josh Griffin

First thing I learned? Don't take a class with Josh Griffin if he happens to have an idea of who you are. Suffice it to say I am now "The Kevin Patterson". Good times!

Mind you I am far removed from my first two years in youth ministry but it's always good to brush up on the fundamentals. One thought provoking thing that stood out to me, and it is something I've heard before but it is always a good reminder is that "Balance is a myth". You will never be able to balance youth ministry, social life, college, being a husband/wife, and parent. Don't attempt to find a balance because you will always come up frustrated. Instead, in what ever rhythm your in and that time whether it be spouse, parent, or youth minister; be fully involved. When you in your youth ministry role, be 100% involved in being a youth minister. If your with your kids, be 100% a parent. Give your full attention to whatever task you have in front of you.

Another learning is, for the first few minutes you are in your office, go 'screen free'. Do not open your computer, phone, or tablet. Just be in that moment with God. Spend that time in prayer and bible study.

Another great idea that I'm stealing is at the beginning of your youth ministry cycle, for me that is fall (we try to follow the school year); bring out 10 basic ideas that parents can do with their students. One idea they shared was something like Dad's take your sons out golfing (or insert popular activity; our area would be fishing/hunting) and talk about creation, Mom's take your daughter shopping and discuss image and how God sees us as masterpieces.

Big Room 1
Mark Matlock

Awesome teaching by Mark Matlock! 5 Reasons the church NEEDS youth ministry. You can find a lot of that teaching on YS's website here. One thing that really hit home that Mark said was this "Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church, restoring life on earth as it is in heaven."

What Mark means by this is that youth are not the "church of tomorrow", they are the church of today. Usually when you hear the phrase church of tomorrow it's from a very well meaning senior adult in the church and their heart is in the right place even if the statement is misguided. If a youth is a baptized member of the church then they have just as much right to be involved in the divine work of the church. They have the right to create, lead, worship, serve, and lead along side any church adult.

While youth are at a very vulnerable place in their lives, they are figuring things out, learning, and questioning; the fact of the matter is age has no place in heaven and it shouldn't on earth. The only age in heaven is 'saved'. Church messages and main programming should include an element that addresses teenagers. Sermons should not just be about work and career, it should include topics such as school and dating; in the main church worship.

Exhibit Hall Grand Opening

Very interesting thing, how small of a world our youth ministry world is. While traversing the exhibit hall I ran into people who I expected to see; Joe Ball and Scott Bidwell and the Staff from Crossings, Ben Trueblood from Lifeway Students, Jeff Thompson and the gang at Group Missions, Griff and Doug Fields and the gang from DYM, the staff from 30 Hour Famine/Childhood lost, the staff at Ricebowls, The staff from Student Life, the great staff over at Fund the Nations, and I got to meet some great people from Liberty University (my wife's alma matter) and Grand Canyon University (where I currently attend). 

But the cool thing, I bumped into Zach a fellow youth minister from the Paducah KY area. Small world! 

Another cool thing, tons of freebies! I will be doing a lot of reviews over some great products and services that I've been talking to down here! So stay tuned for that!