Friday, September 18, 2015

RE: 5 Myths About Youth Pastors

Today I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and stumbled on a post on Church entitled "5 Myths About Youth Pastors" that a friend of mine had shared. It is written by Josh Evans and Josh does a great job identifying 5 'common' myths about youth pastors. You can find the original post here. He also addresses them, I just wish he had gone more in-depth in his debunking of the myths. I know blog posts like this are supposed to be short to hold the attention of the reader and the entire time I was reading the passage I was thinking "Yeah brother! Preach on!" but I will say by the end I was left wanting more. So I thought I would post my thoughts on the same myths.

#1: Youth Pastors are on vacation when at camp and mission trips.
I have been told this statement by the boss of my marketplace job when I was a bi-vocational youth pastor. Let me let everyone in on a secret. Do I have fun when I go to camp? YES! But am I working the entire time I am there? Yes. I am ultimately responsible for the safety and well being of 33 individuals while at camp this year. Students and volunteers alike. I have to make sure the camp knows of my kids food allergies. I have to make sure they are where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there, which if you've ever worked with teens is like herding cats. It's fun but it is the most exhausting thing you can ever do during the summer. And to the volunteers and bi-vocational youth workers and adults. KUDOS! You are sacrificing your 'real' vacation time during the summer to come and chaperone kids and bring them closer to Christ. You are the real rock stars!

#2: Youth pastors are lazy.
.....Hmmm. Guilty. I am lazy. No arguing that. But because I know that my default setting is lazy I do a lot to help compensate for that. There is a 'job' side to youth ministry. Making sure deadlines are met, making sure parents are notified and informed, making sure budgets are balanced. And I fail OFTEN at this. But because I know this parts is something I have to work on, I work on it. I won't address the nights and weekends I've given up for youth ministry stuff because honestly all ministers do this, our job doesn't have a 9-5 punch in clock like most people and that's ok. That is part of it.

#3: Youth pastors are not smart.
.....Hmmm. Guilty again! No seriously. I take offense to that statement. Academically speaking, since I have returned to college for a degree in ministry, I have never failed to make either the dean's or president's list. If you are speaking of theological knowledge I can stand toe to toe and debate theological issues with any senior pastor I know. If you are referring to knowledge of my craft, youth ministry, I am constantly reading books and magazines on the subject. At least once if not twice a year I attend national recognized conferences on the subject to broaden my knowledge. If you are referring to common education I can add two plus two, although my daughter's common core math assignments still confuse me. Seriously, just because I work with teens does not mean I am not smart no more than a teacher who works with those same teens at their school.

#4: All youth pastors do is play games.
Is there a fun element to youth ministry? Yes, as well there should be. Church doesn't have to be stuffy and boring. Yes as a youth pastor I get to have fun with teenagers. But there are also tough times that youth ministers face too. There is dealing with that one church member who just seems to have it out for you. There is having to preach at the funeral of a student who committed suicide. There is counseling a teenage girl who messed up and is pregnant now. There is being there for that one student who wants to be anywhere other than home. There are the days when you want to throw in the towel because of how much time you've been away from your family and how stressful it has been and how close to being burned out you are. With all the fun and all the rowdiness that comes with youth ministry it also comes with burdens that no one person should bear. If you know a youth minister, make their day by asking "Hey I know ministry can be rough, how can I pray for you?" And keep what they tell you confidential and pray for them.

#5: Youth ministry is not a real job.
This one is a myth I cannot debunk. Youth ministry is not a job. It feels that way sometimes, but it's really not. Youth ministry is a calling. You have to know you are wading into the belly of the beast every day. You are going hand to hand and toe to toe with the devil and the world for just an ounce of godly influence in these teens lives. Luckily you have the ultimate ally in Jesus Christ on your side and He is there telling you "I've got your back and the battle is won." Youth ministry is something, I believe, God calls you into. It's not something that you just wake up one morning and think "I want to work with kids." If that's the case please find a secular job working with kids. God needs the warriors, the ones that He has called by name, to take up this fight for our youth. I believe some of the 'myths' floating around about youth ministers may sometimes come from people who were doing youth ministry but were not called by God to be youth ministers.

Answering God's call into this wild journey of youth ministry has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. If your reading this as a youth minister, stick it out! God has great plans for you! If you are reading this and are not a youth minister, find the youth minister of your church. Thank him or her for what they do. Youth ministry is an awesome calling but it is also the most thankless thing you can do in your entire life. Your work will be noticed but you will often never hear about it. Your failures will be broadcast through the gossip channels. There will be those that want to see you fail and you won't know if you made any difference until you are standing before Jesus and He says "Well done good and faithful servant." But that is what I live for. How about you?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Campus Life

Wow it's been awhile since I have written a new blog post! It seems like I've been starting to many blog posts with that. My excuse is, I just haven't been as inspired to write that much recently.

But today, as we are getting back into the normal routine of school and campus ministry something really stood out to me. Our schools are not the enemy! I think to often we hear the phrases of "We need to allow God back into schools" or "Only if our students could take their Bible to school". I want to share a secret with all of you in reader land, they can!

Students are protected under the Bill of Rights with the ability to exercise their faith at their school, with in reason. They can bring their Bibles, read their Bibles, share their faith, and pray at schools! Now that being said, they should exercise good judgement and do it within reason. So if little Billy gets detention because in the middle of Math class he busts out in a out-loud prayer. Then yeah, he got detention, not for praying, but for being a disruption.

I also cringe every time I hear "We should let God back into schools" or "We should put God back into schools." Peeps, #1 you can't put God anywhere. God is all powerful, humans don't tell God where to be and where not to be. Because of His all powerful nature, I'm pretty sure God is still in schools! He is everywhere! Just because we take the 10 Commandments off the wall doesn't mean God goes, "Well they took down the rules. Time for me to leave!" We serve a God that is on the loose man! He cannot be put in a box! He cannot be contained! He cannot be told what to do!

As a youth pastor, I work closely on campus at a variety of different schools. In my church alone we have 2 High Schools, 4 Middle Schools, Home School, and a Private Christian School. I know the heart of the staff, these staff care for the students spiritually as much as academically. Now are there some who are not Christians and some that may even be 'anti-Christian' but here's the deal, those are the ones you hear about because they make the most noise. You don't hear about the teachers who, everyday, walk the halls praying for their students. The ones who pray for their class by name every day. Those who volunteer their time to sponsor clubs like Fellowship of Christian Athletes after or before school.

Some might say, well I think pastors and youth pastors should be able to go onto campus and share the Gospel. We can! With in reason. I cannot stroll into the lunch room, pick up a Bible, and start preaching. Nor should I be able to. If I could do that then every religion would be able to do the same thing. Last year alone I was able to share the Gospel with one high school's football team, another high school's football team and basketball team, and students from one middle school every week as the huddle leader of their FCA. I thank God for every opportunity to share the Gospel with these teens but I also thank Him that not every looney toon on the planet can share with them at any time.

So as this school year kicks off, pray for the students. Don't stop there though. Pray for the staff and teachers, pray for the coaches, and pray for those Christian club sponsors. Pray that our students will awaken to the fact that they can express their faith on their campus and share it. Pass the word to your kids and grandkids that they can do these things; and who knows, maybe they will.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fundraising Ideas

Today we wrapped up our fundraiser for the month of January. We had been doing a T-shirt fundraiser. This fundraiser did well, way better than I could imagine. When we were in the planning stage of this fundraiser I didn't think it would net much, but hey! Every dollar is a dollar we didn't have before right?

Here are some fundraiser ideas that might be a little outside the box that might just be the spark you need to get your fundraising season going.

T-shirt Fundraiser:

This is a picture of the shirt we just finished selling. It wasn't your typical fundraiser shirt. The vast majority of fundraiser t-shirts have something to do with your youth group and/or have the camp/mission trip theme on it.

Let me suggest a different approach. Do a church wide t-shirt instead. Take ours for instance. Our church's 'un-offfical' slogan is "It's a God Thing". So we decided to take our slogan and do a yearly shirt with our slogan in the shirt. The shirt may not always have our church name on it but it will have the church slogan. We get our shirts through Fund the Nations, which you can find more about here. The thought process we had for going with a church wide t-shirt is this, there are church members that may not want to buy a youth shirt or a church camp shirt. However, they will usually buy a church t-shirt. This expands your client base and even puts your students in front of church members that they might not otherwise be in front of.

Discount Cards:
I want to caution you on this fundraiser. Having been burned myself by a fundraiser card company, I will say your best two options with this fundraiser is to go with a company that allows you to send back the unused cards, like Peel To Save Cards.

The other option is to do it yourself. What? Yes do it yourself! It takes some leg work but I would rather hand pick the businesses we support and print them myself then ever get burned by another Discount Card Company. You can pick up a packet that has everything in it to help you put your own cards together from our friends at DYM. Check it out here!

Local Businesses:
If you've been in youth ministry for any length of time then you know about businesses like Chick Fil A and Pizza Hunt that have fundraiser night to help you drum up business for them and you make a % of the sales. Find local favorite restaurant instead.

Pizza Inn in our area have these nights and the students help serve and make all of their tip money. Another great local company is Finish Line Car Wash. They allow students to sell preloaded car wash cards and the students make half the money. We do this in place of a normal 'car wash' fundraiser. Another great business is Cheers Gas Station. They have Spirit Pumps that once assigned, for an entire month the students make a percentage of the sales of those pumps.

These are just some ideas to get your creativity flowing. Check with some local businesses and see if they offer similar things in your area.

Just some great simple ideas to help get your fundraising season going! Until next time! Just keep swimming!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

"Un-Assuming" Youth Ministry

A few weeks ago I listened to a nationally known youth minister speak to his youth group. It was a recording of course, but I had hit a dry spell inspirationally and needed something to kind of jolt me and get my gears turning. So I tuned in to this youth ministers videos on Youtube. This guy was a great speaker, everything flowed together, he moved from one point to another, and he incorporated a lot of flash and pizzazz in his message. (So everything I am not!)

One thing stood out to me though like a sore thumb. If I were a teenager who had never been inside of a church before, I would have had no idea what he was talking about. I’m not claiming to know his program set up, so what I heard may have been their program for deeper learning, but he used a lot of phrases like “in Christ” “saved” and “covered by grace”.

This got me to thinking; do I make the same mistakes? I am guilty of this too sometimes! What we sometimes do as youth pastors is that we ‘assume’ everyone who comes through our doors has been in church for as long as we have, we ‘assume’ they know how to properly exegeses Romans 2, and we ‘assume’ they even know what a Bible is or who Jesus is.

One of the characteristics of successful youth ministries that I have noticed in my own area is that they are ‘Un-Assuming’ youth ministries. Not that there is nothing remarkable about them, quite the opposite actually, the remarkable thing is that they address students of all levels. They don’t assume that a student is saved, baptized, and holds a Masters of Divinity degree when they enter the doors of the youth ministry. They have a program that is easy for a non-believing teenager and a teen that is one more mission trip away from that set of steak knives to understand.

So what are some practical ways to make your youth ministry more ‘Un-Assuming’?

1.     Language

Watch the vernacular you use when you speak. Replace words like ‘saved’ with words like ‘a person who has accepted Jesus as the center of their life’. Words like “covered by grace” with “God has forgiven me of something and I don’t deserve it”.

Even though you spent years (in my case more than I like to admit), getting your degree; youth group is not the place to show off the big words you learned in Greek and Systematic Theology class. Save those for another occasion.

2.     Environment

A big help for non-believing students is the environment. Make sure the paint and layout of the room is warm and inviting. Make the non-believing student feel at home when they come in.
A major advantage to this is assigning some of your core students to shake hands and welcome them with a warm smile when they visit for the first time. I cannot count how many students have probably graced the door of my youth group and never received a shake or a smile from another student.

3.     Put yourself out there

I know, youth group time is usually crazy! You’ve got that one student who wants to talk to you about their boyfriend/girlfriend for the 30th time this week, you have that parent who needs to ask you a quick question about the camp deposit that was due last month that they didn’t pay, and your trying to get packed up and out to go spend some time with your family before the little ones go to bed. But how often do you go out of your way to make sure AFTER youth group that you shake hands with that visiting teenager and tell them you hoped they enjoyed youth group and hope to see them again? Take a second and say welcome to them. Your presence as the friendly (if odd) welcoming youth pastor will make an impression on that teenager. Your presence as the aloof, never around, always in a hurry youth pastor will also make an impression on them as well.

No youth ministry or youth minister is perfect, so rest assured you are not the only one out there! But we can all take steps to making our youth ministry a little more ‘Un-Assuming’! Until next time! Just Keep Swimming!

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!