The last time I've been to a Passion "Main Event" was back in 2002, right after I graduated from the University of South Carolina. The Passion Movement helped mold me and shape me into the Student Pastor I am today. It introduced me to an amazing new way to look at God.
I learned who David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Charlie Hall, Steve Fee, Matt Redman, and so many other Christian worship leaders were before they were played daily on every Christian radio station. Those guys and worship leaders taught me how to really let go and worship. It also inspired me more and more to learn worship songs and to want to lead worship.
Over the past thirteen years I have learned so much from Louie Giglio. Between Passion Events, attending 7:22, listening to sermon cds, reading his books, he has helped me grow in my walk with God. Louie helped me realize how small I am and how BIG God really is.
And tomorrow I have the privilege of taking 13 students and leaders to Passion 2011. I am really excited to go now not as a participant, but as a leader. Words cannot describe the honor I feel to be leading this group this weekend and being able to see these students and leaders grow in their faith.
Elevation Church is kicking off the new year with a worship experience we’re titling “Don’t Put Jesus First.” They’re challenging everyone to not put Jesus first, at the top of your new-years-resolution-list-of-things-to-do. But instead, allow Jesus to infiltrate every single thing you do this year.
What an amazing concept for a New Years Resolution! Instead of putting the typical churchy new years resolutions, just put God in the center of all your life! What would happen to the church if we did this? What would happen in our schools, in our work places, in our families, or in our community? All I can say is wow!
I think it is really cool how God works. Last night we had a Bible study for my new youth group. They call Wednesday nights here REFUEL. And last night we talked about how 2011 will be different. We came up with New Years resolutions for our group last night. And then this morning I see a tweet on this worship experience that Elevation is doing this weekend and it fit exactly into what my students were talking about last night.
I hope that you take the time this New Year to put God in the center of everything you do. Imagine what things could be!!!!!
After several weeks off from taking a break from blogging, I'm back at it. The past month has gone by so fast! It really doesn't seem that I really haven't blogged since we moved. Moving during the holidays, both Thanksgiving and Christmas season, not to mention starting a new job has kept me away from writing some posts. I have a couple in waiting that I will save for a rainy or sick day.
So we are now a month into life in South Carolina. Most of the boxes are unpacked. And in the next week or so, more boxes will be packed as our Christmas items will go back in boxes for 11 months! Life is good. We are both enjoying our new jobs and our daughter has started in daycare. The only complaint we really have is that our house in Charlotte still has not sold. But we are not worried! Because everyday in small ways as well as BIG ways we see that God has truly called us here. Words can express how BIG our GOD is and how when you really let go and let Him take control, amazing things happen. We are true examples with this move on how BIG GOD IS! Jessica and I daily share these things and this has gone on for a month now. We are both just amazed!
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” – Phil 4:19
Last night we had a rare Lunar Eclipse. I tried to view it twice last night, but due to cloud coverage I was unable to view it. When I returned inside I read this on Pastor Adam Hamilton's Facebook status...
Lunar Eclipse: In the heavens tonight a full moon's light extinguished - darkness overcomes the light. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year - darkness seems to have the upper hand. This year the solstice was combined with a total eclipse of the moon - where we could see light conquered by darkness.
No one knows the day Jesus was born. The early church adopted December 25th because it roughly coincided with the time surrounding the winter solstice. This date was a way of saying, "In Jesus' birth, light has come into the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it!" Tonight the solstice was combined with a lunar eclipse - darkness seems to conquer light.
In a few minutes the light of the moon will reappear - conquering the darkness. And from this night on for the next six months, daylight increases and darkness decreases. This is a powerful metaphor for Christmas. On Christmas Eve we celebrate Christ's role in overcoming the darkness by lighting candles, but tonight the heavens told the story this for us. How cool is that?!
Last week I had my first experience at Mt. Hebron UMC Rock Solid Student Ministries Bovotions... Bovotions is where the students meet at our local Bojangles restaurant on "Late Arrival" Wednesdays for breakfast, prayer, and a devo to get the day started right! I have always been a big fan of Bojangles food and sweet tea. As I walked over to get my sweet tea last week I noticed that not only the sweet tea said "legendary" but also the unsweet tea said it was legendary...which made me think....
Sweet tea takes some work and perfection to make. You have to add the right amount of sugar to give it that perfect Southern Flavor. But then on the other hand, how can unsweet tea be as "legendary". It really takes no effort to make it. You just put tea bags in hot water and take it out at the right time.
So here is my analogy and deep thought...blog post of the day...and also the Bovotion that I gave this morning. For us to be "legendary" in our lives, we must be the sweet tea as Christians. We must take the extra time and effort to be Christians. Too often we are just the unsweet "legendary" Tea. We just show up, give little effort, but label ourselves as "legendary".
My Challenge for all of us is to be "Legendary" Sweet Tea Christians! Take the time to listen to God for His right recipe for you life, add his sweetness daily, and don't settle for unsweet tea!
Boxes are everywhere! They are packed and stacked in my office! They are in our garage...they are all over our house! We are moving in a week! And there are more empty boxes than packed boxes in our house.
Packing and moving days are on the top of my list of what I do not like to do. Even though we are very much looking forward to our move to our new church and new city...I have always hated the process of going through things, finding things, throwing away things while preparing to move.
Moving in ministry is emotional. While packing my office I have found pictures, retreat flyers, books, skit supplies, and more. Each have brought a memory of that event. I think of the lives that were changed. I think of the smiles and the tears at each event.
Too often, we box these memories up never to be seen again in our spiritual lives. We go on a retreat, go to a concert, have an amazing night at youth, and box up the awesome gift that God gave us. We never reveal it to anyone else. We do not share the Good news. We sometimes never speak of it again.
I challenge you to unpack your spiritual hiding boxes. Share what God has done for you in your life with someone else today. The gifts that God gives us should be shared and not boxed up as just another memory!
As you know from my previous two blogs, I have accepted a new job in student ministry and stepped down from my current position. Right now is a tough transition in ministry. I am currently backing up files, reorganizing, typing passwords and accounts, laying out upcoming lessons for my adults, turning in receipts, finalizing the winter retreat for my current church. As I do this I am talking with my new church, getting files, setting up email, and starting to plan December.
Transition is tough. There is a lot of emotions going on as I pack and prepare to leave. I look back at all the great things that God did here. I look at how the students have grown in their faith. I look at the 20+ retreats I have taken this group on during the past four years. I look at how many lives have been committed to Christ. I look at the number of files of talks, small groups, and Sunday School lessons that have taken place. It is so awesome to see how BIG our God is!
It is hard to see my current students hurt as my family is preparing to leave. I know for them it seems like the end. But as I look forward I see a group of students who felt the same way a couple months ago and I see the excitement in their messages on Facebook and their numerous friend requests. I am reminded that my current students will feel the same way in a couple months when God sends who He is calling to take this group to the next level.
I am beyond excited about the new possibilities, the new friendships, the new ministries, and the new memories that will start at the end of the month. We are so excited about our new church family and are ready for a great transition into the lives of our new church!
Last night was a very tough night for me, as I resigned from my position as the director of Student Ministries. Last Wednesday, I accepted a new job in student ministry in South Carolina. It is a great opportunity for me and our family. It also puts us closer to family and friends. The past couple days it was very tough to know that I was going to have to tell my students and adults that I was going to be leaving. I have invested my last four years in most of their lives. How do you just tell them that you are leaving in less than a month? There is not an easy way to do that.
The scripture I used last night was Philippians 1: 3-3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
It is amazing to look back at the last four years here at Blair Road UMC and see how much the students have grown in their walk with God. And it was very evident last night when they stood one by one and told of how they have grown. They each have an amazing testimony. I look at my favorite verses in ministry, 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted the seed, Apollos watered it but God made it Grow." In ministry we sometimes plant the seed, sometimes we are the ones that waters and nurtures it, but God grows it. In ministry, people come and go. There is always a transition in small group leaders, sunday school teachers, and other positions. There are so many that plant seeds, there are many that water the seeds, and we never know sometimes which ones we are. We must always keep our heart and eyes on God so that He can make them grow.
And when I look at both of those verses as I start packing my things to head to Columbia, SC, I know that God is in control. I will always have a special place in my heart for the students and congregation here at Blair Road UMC.
After much thought and prayer and discussion with my family, I would like to inform you that I am resigning from my position as Director of Student Ministries here at Blair Road United Methodist Church effect November 28, 2010.Our last Sunday will be November 21st. I have decided to take a Youth Pastor position in Lexington, SC starting in the end of November.The decision was very tough, but after many hours of prayer and talking with my wife bride Jessica, our close friends, spiritual mentors, and our family, I feel that it is the best decision and opportunity for me, Jessica, and Mallory.
I want to thank you for this opportunity to work with the youth at Blair Road United Methodist Church. They are our greatest assets, and I encourage everyone to continue to listen to them, talk to them, work with them, cheer for them, and-most of all-pray for them. I appreciate your trust and confidence in my abilities and your support. I am grateful for the opportunities and experience and for the many friends that I have made along the way.
Thank you for your understanding and for the privilege of serving the youth and congregation of Blair Road United Methodist Church.I have always said that God is in control and continue to believe that now.My departing Scripture of encouragement is Philippians 4:6, 7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."I have every bit of confidence in our students and adults.There is no doubt that this ministry will continue to excel.I shall keep you all in my prayers.I pray that you will do the same for me and my family.
I think I want to rename this one in the honor a great 90's one hit wonder... One of my favorite games in youth ministry is a game called Crossed or Uncrossed also known as Scissors...
Scissors is a neat trick to have in your bag for those down times when everyone is getting bored. Unfortunately, you can not do it more than once with the same group. If you do not have a pair of scissors, two sticks, two pencils or anything which can simulate open or closed scissors will do. Have the group sit in a circle. While passing the scissors to the person on his/her right, the leader says "I receive the scissors (either open or closed) and I pass them (either open or closed)". The person receiving repeats the statement while passing to the next person. The leader (and anyone else who has caught on to the trick) announces if each part of the statement is right or wrong. Continue until everyone can pass the scissors correctly. The trick has nothing to do with the scissors. Open and closed refer to whether the person's legs or feet are crossed (closed) or uncrossed (open) when receiving and passing. This activity usually generates some discussion about the importance of looking past the obvious and thinking creatively. Every time I've seen the game played it lasts quite a while. It is so funny to see the confusion when people think they have it right and they are wrong!
In December of 1997, I started in first paid youth ministry position at Faith United Methodist Church in Lexington, SC. Recently I have looked back at my time there. I have looked at my notes and my talk outlines, and I have really learned a lot. I was getting paid $5,000 a year and had a $500 yearly budget. I had a youth room that doubled as the church preschool during the week. I was a freshman in college and only 18 years old when I started. I had one youth that was 19. But none of that was a discouragement. I was so excited to be in ministry. I was excited to be where God was calling me. I had no clue that I was under paid and that my budget was so small. All I saw was a couple of teenagers that were excited to have me there and ready to learn about God.
I have recently became friends with several of my first group of youth on Facebook and after going through my records I have found my roster of students. I really want to reconnect with as many as possible to hear what they are doing today and see how they are.
After several different ideas that went through my head of what I should blog about today...I thought of a song that I wanted to share. Its an older song that has meant a lot to me and Jessica during the past eight months.
In youth ministry, God daily dares us to move and get out of our comfort zone. Too often we stick with what we know and how we have always done things. Lately God has really been challenging me and several of my youth ministry friends to get out of our comfort zone and do BIG things.
God is always calling us to do BIG things in His name, but too often we are lazy or too comfortable. So today I dare you to move in a different direction. Move out of your comfort zone!
A couple years ago I had several friends who stepped down from their positions in youth ministry after being burned out. Two of them were single and the other was married. They were only getting paid to serve in their church for 40 hours a week, yet they were working 60-80 hours a week every week. They were doing great ministry by going to lunch every day at a different school, running several small groups, going to every after school sporting event, and putting on a great youth program on Sunday nights. They would sometimes take a day off...sometimes they wouldn't. They were going...going...going...but they really weren't taking care of themselves or their families.
It made me look at how I was doing ministry. I saw that at times I would be doing the same thing and putting in that many hours and not taking care of myself. At the time, Jessica and I were just dating. And I knew that if I wanted to ever get married and stay married and still be in youth ministry.
Shortly after that I went to a Youth Specialties event. I really can't remember who spoke and talked about dividing your day into thirds when being in ministry. But whoever it was....THANK YOU!
Basically you look at your events for the week and for each day you divide your day into thirds...Morning, Afternoon, Evening... If you plan on going to Lunch with youth and spending time in the office and have a small group that night...then you take the afternoon off. If you have an afternoon meeting and a chorus concert to attend...then take the morning off. Pretty simple!
At first I had trouble doing this and found myself not doing it every day...but slowly I started blocking my schedule out into thirds and it made life in ministry a lot easier.
Like today...it is Wednesday...so my first third is spending time at home getting things done around the house and spending time with family. I will then go into the office after lunch and do office things before Wednesday night programming...since I won't be home until around 9ish...Tomorrow I have nothing planned for the evening, so I will work in the morning and afternoon and spend my last third at home with my family!
I encourage you if you have trouble balancing life and ministry to try this for a week or a month and see how God really can use you not only in ministry but in your family!
One of my favorite songs is "If we are the Body" by Casting Crowns. I bring this up, because it has been really awesome to see my friends be the Body of Christ lately. I have recently seen on my news feed on Facebook, many of my friends be the Body of Christ. There is no IF with many of my friends...they ARE!
I see so many of my friends serving in roles in Children's Ministry and in Student Ministry. I see my friends giving up their weekends and weekdays to be part of lock-ins, small groups, Trunk or Treats, and so many other great things. All I can say is WOW!
I remember a few years ago when I was speaking and a "friend" from high school came up to me and told me that she was first angered to hear I was speaking at a church event, because she knew how I acted at times in High School, but after hearing how God had changed me she was glad that I was in youth ministry. I have to admit that I have felt the same way when I have seen status updates of some of the people I knew in high school thinking how could they be in church...I knew what they did and who they were in high school and college....and I then go back and remember being told the same thing! And then I just stop and I thank God for turning their lives around like He did for me.
It is so awesome to have social networks where we can share with our friends how we have changed and how we are trying to help God change the world through all these ministries at all this churches. I am so thankful for all of you that read this and for those that don't who are serving all over in volunteer and paid positions in the church. Know that I pray for you all often and that even though we might not be at the same church...we are on the same team!
I have been leading youth worship in my youth groups since 1997 when I first started in youth ministry at Faith United Methodist Church in Lexington, SC. During that first year of youth ministry I knew only a few chords and played really only 3 songs for most of the year...Light the Fire, Peaceful Easy Feeling, and Lord I Lift Your Name on High. It was a great time of worship every week. I think back to other ministries and think of the funny songs and the great worship that happened. I also look at when the music went from doing it for the glory of God to trying to sound like the CD.
The other night I had the chance to lead worship with just me and my guitar. I picked 2 songs that I have not played for a while. It made me think back in time to when it was just me and my guitar leading worship. It made me think about when I wasn't concerned about my singers singing a three part harmony, having a guitar solo, or having the drums start off as they do on the CD. It reminded me of the nights sitting on my porch at my dorms trying to learn worship songs. It took me back to a time where I was running for God and not worrying about who was watching.
We all have those places that we need to reconnect with God. We need to go back to how we used to run with God, but this time run harder and keep our eyes focused on Him. There are many great things that we have done right in our past. Don't forget to review and see what you can reuse or get re-energized!
Another favorite game of mine was the first game I can remember that I was in when I was in high school.
It only takes a can of whip cream and a lot of cheesy poofs! Have 3-4 pairs (6-8 students). Have one from each pair sit in a chair with a trash bag over them (to protect their clothes!) Spray whip cream on their face (if you can get swimming goggles to cover their eyes, thats a plus!) Then have their partner stand about 5 feet away and when the music starts have them to toss cheesy poofs onto the whip cream! The pair that has the most wins!
Back to the Future ranks in my top 5 movies of all time. I'm really excited to get it on Blu-Ray, hopefully for Christmas! When I saw the commercial for it earlier today I thought about how we often change who we are in ministry and forget our roots...we forget the things that worked and we are constantly reading and learning trying to figure out that cool thing to do. When really we just need to hop into our DeLoreans and head back to the parts of our ministry that were very successful. There are many great songs, games, skits and talks that are as relevant today as they were when we used them years ago. But there are also some things that just should stay in the past!
Since I have started in youth ministry in 1997 I have a record of every game, song, skit, and talk that I have ever done. I have note books from every church. I can go back to almost any Sunday or Wednesday night and tell you what songs we sang, we skit or game we did, and the talk with scripture that I used. I'm really not sure why I kept every one in the early years...but I know that today I keep it so I can look back and learn. I can see so many things from my past in ministry. I remember some really cool games and skits. I remember also which songs that bombed and that will never be played again!
During the next couple weeks I plan to look through every single one of these and see what are some things that I can bring BACK TO THE FUTURE!
Last night I blogged about our great night with Trunk or Treat. As I reread it this morning I realized that I need to talk more about the importance of the student ministry sponsoring the event.
In my mind I feel that too many times in ministry we have our ministry silos. If we aren't careful in the church world, we isolate ourselves to just our ministries and our ministry silos. That is why I feel that it is very important that in student ministry we connect to other ministries and the rest of congregation. Too many times in the church, different ministries, departments, Sunday Schools, Scouts, and leadership get stuck in their own silos. They only support, attend, and cultivate their own area which at times can really hurt the church and potential ministry.
This year, I have been working more and more to prevent this from happening in our student ministry. We have intentionally reached out to our older adult Sunday School classes. Some our older guys have offered to do yard work and small projects without pay. Last week I went and led music for one of their Sunday School Class outings. I have asked them to be a part of our Snack Supper. We extended an invitation to them to be a big part of the Trunk or Treat by having games last night. I have also made sure that our student ministry is very active in helping with our Children's ministry through helping with Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and many other things.
Last night at Trunk or Treat, several of our youth for the 4th straight year had their own trunks and gave out candy. Other youth helped supervise the moon walk/bounce houses that the student ministry donated out of our budget. Our student leadership was the judges for the trunk contest and the costume contest. I feel that it is very important to show the students how important they are in the church. It is very important that they see that they are the church of today. It is very important that we are a part of other parts of the church.
Tonight we had our 4th annual Trunk or Treat sponsored by our Student Ministry. Four years ago when I arrived here at Blair Road UMC, my friend Scot Herring suggested that I start one up here, as he did at his church. At first I told him that it was a Children's ministry event...why should I start one here...why don't I just tell our Children's Director the idea and that be that! He told me that it was a great opportunity to have the student ministry take the lead.
The first year we had 8 cars and maybe 40 kids show up...it was really sad. But the next year, we worked hard to get the word out and the excitement. It grew more the next two times. Tonight we had close somewhere between 600-800 people. We moved it inside due to the weather being a threat of thunderstorms. At one point you could not move in our gym with people and kids waiting in line for free food, kids playing games, two lines of 30+ (in each line) waiting for the moon bounce. I went over the other building where we had everyone with candy in the halls and class rooms and it was packed. It was such a great sight to see!
I worried all day about not having it in the parking lot with the large chance of rain. I worried that no one showed up. But as I talked to a few of my adults....GOD showed up and so did the people. The great thing about having it indoors, was that people came into our church. They saw our ministries in action. They saw the hands and feet in action. They saw what we are really all about. They saw more than the parking lot many of them pass every day.
Last week in my youth group, I did our second week on being INKED. The topic was being INKED in Service. During the week before I wrote, then rewrote, then tweaked it some more. Then on Sunday morning I added another piece to it. I was kinda unsure about it and then one of my adults showed up early for Sunday School and he asked what we were doing that night. I told him my idea and that I was unsure if the students would get into it or not. He thought it was just what the students needed from what he observed from his own daughter and our guys small group.
I started off by reviewing being INKED in Love and the students brought up several things that they had thought about after the lesson the week before. I then transitioned into asking the students what it meant to serve. Many students gave mission trips, helping the homeless, and ushering in church. I told them that I wanted them to think outside the box. God calls us to love and serve our neighbors. How about when:
We think and act not only in our own best interests, but also take seriously life in our school, congregation, community and our responsibilities to all of God’s people.
We place our friends' and family's interests ahead of our own.
We are knit into relationships of mutual care.
We act with a focus on generosity, justice and inclusion.
So after that I went old school and asked the students to either close their eyes and listen or to read the lyrics.
I then asked the students to break out into groups with their friends of 4-6. They were first really shocked that I asked them to pair up with their friends, because I usually ask them to find someone new. After the grouped up. I asked them to come up with a way to serve our congregation during the next month. I asked them to write the idea up and give it to me before they left. Their mission was to be their own and they were asked to document in picture or video their mission.
Here is what they came up with:
Group 1: Volunteer for yard work for free to the elderly in the church
Group 2: Bake Cookies to hand out after both services
Group 3: Make Candy bags for the kids Sunday School, take flowers to people on prayer list, write Bible verses on Post it Notes and hand them out
Group 4: Bake Cookies and Brownies to hand out to the Contemporary Service twice
Group 5: Pick up trash on Church property and volunteer to take down chairs after service.
Group 6: Provide dessert for Wednesday night supper
Group 7: TBA
UPDATE: Group 2... gave out bags of freshly baked cookies on October 24th to the early service and everyone was blown away.
For the past three weeks, I have been teaching a Simply Youth Series called Inked. As I stated in my previous post, Be who you are Part II, I adapt series and teaching aids to who I am and who my students are. I have used the series main scriptures, the idea, and some of the main points and made it my own.
For the first week I talked about being INKED in Love.
It is cool to have a temporary tattoo, anybody who has a quarter or two can pick one, two, or a whole sheet. It takes a couple seconds, some water, and the application is complete. Depending on what you do during the next couple minutes, hour, or day determines how your tattoo looks. Most don't last more than a couple hours or a day at most. As Christians, we often have the same love for God. We show up for church, Sunday School, Small Groups, Bible Study, Youth Group, and even Retreats and only give enough for a temporary tattoo for God. Some of us cover it up. Others wash or rub it off within minutes of leaving. Others it takes until the next day. There sometimes residual signs that we were a part of the love of God for a couple days, but most never see it.
Henna Tattoos cost a little more than temporary tattoos. Most people get them when they go to the beach and you can pay $10-50 for one. They last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks depending on your body temperature level, where the henna is applied, and how often you wash the hennaed area. The more you wash your henna tattoo the faster it will fade away. I compare them to us going on Retreats, Mission Trips, or being involved in a bible study or small group. We take the time, the energy, our resources, a little cost to be part of God's love. But the problem is that we do fully commit to God. We do not fully let go and let him be a part of our lives. So after a few weeks, no one even knows that we went on Retreat, mission trip, or that we even go to church. Or people see it as a season. They see that we get God's love only at this moments in life, kinda like we only see Henna Tattoos during the summer after coming back from the beach.
A tattoo is a marking made by inserting indelible ink into the dermis layer of the skin to change the pigment. IT is there for life! We need to have a life marked in Christ. We need to live it daily and allow everyone to see it. We need to make the commitment and stick with it.
I've decided that since I'm such a big football fan and love GAMEDAY Saturdays I'm going to start posting my favorite and created games on Saturdays...
Fire Hydrant, Dog, Truck is a game that I've played since I was in youth group back in the 90's. I'm really not sure who invented it, but any time I bring it out, my students love it. It is similar to Rock, Paper, Scissors.
Have your students pair up and turn back-to-back. Countdown...1...2....3...GO! Students turn around and act out a fire hydrant by putting their arms by their side, a dog by lifting one leg, or a truck by acting like they are using the steering wheel.
Fire Hydrant beats the Truck
Truck beats the Dog
Dog beats the Fire Hydrant
And if you Tie....You Die
Keep playing till you have 2 students left and do a best out of 3 to determine the overall winner.
Yesterday I wrote about Be who you are and after reading it, I felt there was still somethings I wanted to say. I think that too often in youth ministry, we try to be who we are not because we do not take the time or are told to take the time to get trained in ministry. If you attend NYWC or Simply Conference, you can go around to all the exhibits grab some free curriculum or even buy every single one. You can pretty much pick up everything in the exhibit hall including entering to win a free iPad, iPhone 4, Macbook, and more. The only thing you can't pick up is the stylish youth pastor goatee, the Rob Bell hipster glasses, and the designer clothes of Steven Furtick.
You can take all these things, go back to your local church and try them out. But most fail to look at the demographics and needs of their own groups. We get all this free stuff or buy the latest and greatest series and videos and try to pass them on to our group. Too often they fail, because they were not made for our group. We do not take the time to adapt them to our group. We hit play and we hope for the best.
Instead we need to take the same time we do to build relationships with our students to understand their spiritual needs.
I admit, I have been caught in this trap. I have a book shelf of resources that I bought, tried a couple weeks and failed with them. I was too caught up in the hype of the product, book, or video series to see that my students did not need this. Or if they did I did not adapt it to my group. It was a tough lesson to learn.
So where do we go from here? What do we do?
I'm not saying boycott Simply Youth, Group Publishing, or Youth Specialties and just write your own resources. I'm saying, take the time to know your group, know your students, and know your leaders. Take time in prayer to see where God is leading you to lead your group. Take the time if you buy a resource to adapt it to the lives of your students. Take the time to explain to your adults why you are using this resource. Communicate with the parents and get them involved. Take the time to let God shape and mold you to the youth worker He wants you to be, not a carbon copy youth pastor who has a goatee, Rob Bell glasses, designer clothes, carrying a shoulder bag with your Mac Book, iPad, and iPhone.
A friend shared this video with me and the first thing I thought was I have to share this via facebook, twitter, email, and my blog. After watching it for the third time it made me think....
It made me look at my 13 years of youth ministry and how I've tried at different times to be other youth pastors and not myself...
Back in 1997-1998, my first job was a part time 10 hour a week youth director position at Faith United Methodist Church in Lexington, SC. I was just finishing up my training to be a volunteer for Young Life. At that time I had never been to any type of conference or workshop for youth ministry. There were only a few books on youth ministry at the time. The only thing I knew about how to put on youth group time was from my youth pastor growing up and from Young Life. So I made it up as I went, I combined my knowledge of both and created my own format which is the base for how I still do youth ministry all these years later.
Over the next couple of years I started attending different workshops, one day training, and observed other youth groups. Slowly over time I could see myself trying to copy what I saw other people doing. I tried to do skits, music, and talks like the other guys that I was seeing. I was trying to be someone that I wasn't...I was trying to be carbon copy of other youth workers. Just a few years ago I stopped writing my own talks and started using talks from Simply Youth and tried to be Doug Fields by memorizing his talk transcripts.
I was trying music from the Passion movement and would introduce songs and read scripture exactly as I saw it live and own their CD. Everything in my Sunday Night youth program was a copy of someone else and was not fully of God or of me. I was trying to be someone else and not the Youth Pastor that God had called me to be.
Over the past couple years I have let go of that and have allowed God to show me who I am and who He wants me to be when I lead youth ministry. I too often see other youth workers fall into the same trap that I fell into. It can be very harmful to the youth ministry and to the church if they are not careful. With the hundreds of youth resources out there it is very tempting for us to just copy and paste. Just be who you are called to be. Use these resources, but take the time to see how God wants you to use it for your students and adapt things.
I recently was asked to tell about my faith journey...
My parents chose to raise my siblings and me in the United Methodist Church and I went through Confirmation class in 1993. Throughout this transitional, yet foundational time in my childhood it was very important to my parents for me understand what it meant to be a Christian, but also what it meant to be part of the United Methodist Church. Towards the end of my confirmation class I went with a friend to see Carmen in concert on March 13, 1993. On that night when the invitation was given, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. Two years later I was invited to go on a personal spiritual retreat through the South Georgia Episcopal Diocese called Happening. During that weekend I felt and heard a calling into youth ministry. When I returned home, within a couple of weeks, my church hired our first full-time youth pastor. Over the next two years, he gave me leadership opportunities and taught me a lot about the United Methodist Church and ministry.
In the fall of 1997, during my freshman year at the University of South Carolina I applied and started my first part-time job in youth ministry at Faith United Methodist in Lexington, SC. It was a great opportunity and for being only 18 years old, was a large part of my growth and maturity, spiritually and professionally. While attending the University of South Carolina, I was very involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Young Life. Both organizations helped me to gain leadership and youth ministry skills. After graduating from college, I moved to Atlanta and accepted my first job into full-time youth ministry. Throughout my first year, I learned about working in the church, but more importantly how to keep myself spiritually fulfilled on my own through reading, prayer, and listening to other pastors. I also learned how to network with other youth pastors, create connections and have accountability partners that have and are serving as great assets and friendships still today.
In 2007 I moved to Charlotte, NC after feeling called by God to step out in faith, out of my comfort zone, to accept a full time position at Blair Road United Methodist Church as their Director of Student Ministries. In May I married Jessica and we bought our first house, anticipating that we would live in Charlotte for many years. Then on December 1, 2007, we received a call from my parents at four in the morning that my little brother had passed away from meningitis. His death was very tough for my family and me, but after seeing how many lives he touched and how God used his life to fulfill his Kingdom, also changed my outlook on life as well as my ministry. These events ignited a desire in me to begin the next phase that God had for me which was to earn a Masters of Christian Education as well as my Deacon’s Orders in the United Methodist Church.
I've been in Youth Ministry since 1997 as a volunteer, part-time youth worker, intern, Young Life Leader, FCA Huddle Leader, and full-time youth worker. For my three ten years of youth ministry I did training with Young Life and FCA and you can see many of those influences and teachings in the format of my youth ministry. I also went to small trainings and seminars put on by the United Methodist Church in my district and the North Georgia Conference. My undergraduate degree was Pre-Law in Political Science with a minor in Sociology at the University of South Carolina. In my mind the small outside training was good enough for me to take on the work of youth ministry. I would monthly get flyers and brochures from Youth Specialties and Simply Youth about their conferences, but saw the cost of $300+ and not to mention the cost of travel, hotel, and food to be too much for "continuing education" for my full-time job in youth ministry. I always looked at my budget and personal reimbursement accounts and just didn't see how I could fit it in. Every church I worked at never really saw them as important and felt that the small seminars and training the United Methodist Church was enough...mostly because they were either free or at most $25 and only a few minutes from the church.
In the spring of 2008, I was in the middle of my first semester of graduate school at Pfeiffer University and Wesley Seminary when it was time to register for the Fall Semester. I was advised to take Catalyst and Youth Specialties Nation Youth Workers Conference for the fall since my emphasis in my Masters of Christian Education was Youth Ministry. The courses comprised of me going to these conferences, taking notes, going to seminars, writing a paper on my experience, and having a follow-up with my course advisor to receive one hour of credit for each. I had several classmates and other Youth workers that I knew that told me how great it would be. But I had no clue!
So the fall came, I had my hotel reservations for Catalyst and talked with my friend Jason in Nashville to stay at his apartment for NWYC. I had my continuing education account set up to pay for everything and was off for a new adventure. It was amazing to see so many familiar faces of friends in ministry at both Conferences. Catalyst blew me away with the intensity of the format, the worship, and the speakers. It was an awesome experience. Little did I know that was only the beginning as I prepared to go to NYWC. My friend Jason had been many times, so he was my tour guide. I was a Exhibitor Floor Rookie. I was blown away by all the resources, camps, and everything about youth ministry in Exhibit Hall. Before the first session I had signed up for almost everything to win things and get information. But the coolest part was all the FREE STUFF! I had 3 bags of free resources, t-shirts, brochures, and candy! I had to take a trip back to my truck before the first general session to drop it all off. Then I went to the General sessions and was blown away about the excitement, the worship, and the speakers. My only thought was, "Why have I missed out on this for all these years." It was a time of renewal, a time of learning, a time to just be me with thousands of other youth workers who went through the same stress, problems, the joys, and everything that is youth ministry in the church.
I learned so much, I made many new friends, I really started to use twitter for the first time, I got tons of resources, I got free stuff to give out for games at my youth group, but I was renewed. The main point in my papers for my class was that no matter where I am at in ministry, going to at least one conference was going to be a priority for me.
Last year I was unable to go to Catalyst due to my daughter being born and will unable to attend this year due to other commitments. But I was able to go to NYWC in Atlanta and I brought someone new. I brought my former youth Mark, who is now in his fourth year of youth ministry and stayed at his place. It was so awesome to see how he reacted when we checked in and to see him as he went through Exhibit hall was so awesome. But the best part was once again reconnecting with old friends in youth ministry by having meals, having coffee, walking through exhibit hall together, going to seminars, and staying for late night concerts. I also really enjoyed coming back and talking with Mark every night about what we experienced that day. I also tried taking time to meet with a consultant, who has become a great friend. Lars Rood and I were twitter friends before NYWC, but it was mostly just me retweeting his blog. But he was a great resource that I never knew existed. I also had the chance to meet with Adam McLane for breakfast on the last day and like Lars, I only knew him before on twitter. Since then I've had some cool tweets back and forth with him and others that I met. Mark and I also met Matt McCage, who Mark tried to get Doug Field's cell phone from (funny side story...Matty gave Mark the Taco Bell number close to Saddleback!). Matty has become another good friend who I call on occasion, tweet, and Facebook with and it would have never happened with any of these great guys if I didn't go.
Youth Conferences are more than just a conference, they are now an important part of my youth ministry. I now look forward to them and make them a priority in my ministry and life. They are the first thing I put on my yearly schedule and my budget. They are about relationships, a renewal, an agape love from God, worship, and so much more. So during the next couple days as NYWC is going on in San Diego this week and you see the #nywc and Catalyst next week in Atlanta and you see #CAT10 on many tweets, pray for these guys and girls. And if you haven't planned on going to Nashville this year then try to work it out or sign up for Simply Youth Conference in Chicago in March or the Orange Conference in the April. Make it a priority. Take time for renewal. Take time for yourself. Take time to learn for your students. Take your adult volunteers. Take another youth worker. Take your Senior Pastor. Just don't make the mistake I did for so long and make excuses.
·I have tried to stay up with the latest technology since I started in Youth Ministry in 1997.Since my first church I have always found it important to have a youth group website.Over the years it has evolved as technology has changed.I use our website to give visitors an open house of what our ministry is about.The website is updated several times a week to help parents and students keep up with current and future events.The website allows visitors to see what we are doing and what we have done.
·I have always had a newsletter in youth ministry, and in recent years I have adapted with technology and send out two weekly newsletter via email using www.constantcontact.I give weekly announcements, give information about future retreats, and give a summary of the current topics we are teaching in youth group, small groups, and Sunday school.I also print out several copies for those who do not have internet access that can pick them up in the church office.I also post the link on Facebook and in our churches weekly email newsletter.
·Since 2008, when I attended Youth Specialties and stopped by the vender Youth Tracker, I have used this website to keep attendance and organize our students in small groups, outreach, events, and more
·Text messaging is the language of most teenagers today.I use text messaging to weekly send out announcements and reminders.I also use it to send the students daily scripture readings. I use Simply Text.
·I also use the technology of Facebook.I have set up several groups online for parents, youth, small groups, and our praise band to keep everyone connected.I also encourage parents to use Facebook to stay connected with their students.I use Facebook to post articles, blogs, announcements, newsletters, and scripture.
·Twitter is also used in my student ministries.I use it for quick updates, announcements and to share links with my students and parents.I also use it for personal use to network with other ministry leaders around the world.
·Video is another key use of technology in my ministry.I always take a video camera with me to school events and make highlight videos to help encourage students to bring their friends.I always video any retreat and mission trip to document our trip.I make a highlight video that I share at youth group and with the congregation.We always make these videos available on our website and on youtube.For the past two summers on our mission trip, we have made daily video blogs to help connect our mission trip to the parents and our congregation.I also make funny videos for youth group.I use videos from different church media outlets such as Blue Fish TV and the Skit Guys for illustrations in my devotions and lessons. We use a DV camecorder as well as two Flip video cameras and my iPhone for videos.I use Pinnacle Studios 14 for video editing on my computer.
·In 1997 the technology for leading worship was an overhead projector with transperancy song sheets.As worship technology has changed, I have moved to powerpoint and now use Media Shout 4.5 during youth program time.I have also used Easy Worship and Song Show Plus.
·My iPhone has also become a big part of my ministry.I use it for texting, photos during events and youth, quick videos, and iPhone Apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Bible Commentarires, NIV Bible, Youth Specialties, and other ministry Apps.
"To find meaning and purpose in your life you must see it in the context of Gods plan." - @andystanley
A couple weeks ago Andy Stanley tweeted the above statement. I've been on Twitter since May 2008 when Simply Youth Ministry put a challenge out to try twitter. At first I rarely used it. Then as the fall approached in 2008, I started to use it more, at first I used it as another facebook status update then I started seeing after going to Catalyst 2008 that many people use it to share blog, news, ideas, and interesting links. So many times I would RT or just click the link and not share. Over the past year I have started Tweet boxes in my email. Anytime I see a cool Tweet with a link or quote, I email it to myself and use it or save it for later.
The above tweet from Stanley was put in the to save for later box. At the time I saw it I really liked it, but something told me to save it. Just now I was looking for another link in the save it for later Tweet box and found it. It really made me think and pray.
Where I'm at right now....it really hit home. Too often over the past couple years I've been in a daze and no clue why I started on my Masters and working towards ordination. But every day know God is showing me new things and why I went through my Masters program and seeing the context of God's plan for everything. Its really cool to see God moving!
Lately...I've been listening a lot to God in places that I usually do not have them time to explore. Like I said in my previous blog, I spent quite some time a week ago listening to several sermons of Steven Furtick as he preached for 24 hours straight last week. I also have had a chance to listen to Pastor Ed Young, Rick Warren, Joel Olsteen, and a few others. In the past I used to listen to several pastors a week as part of my time with God. During the past two and a half years I have listened to books on my iPod and have been reading more books and blogs. But during the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to listen and watch several online and broadcast of sermons. All of these pastors have different theological backgrounds and they are really on different pages.
But here is the thing....every sermon has been a different building block for where I am right now. God is really speaking to me and to my wife right now and I'm really excited to see what He has in store for us in the upcoming months as we listen and act on what we are learning. In upcoming blogs I will elaborate more on each!
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For the past 24 hours, Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church here in Matthews, NC has been preaching every hour....I've tuned in off and on during the past 24 hours to hear some great sermons, see some great videos, and listen to some great worship.
On my way home last night I stopped by and picked up my reserved copy of Furtick's new book "Sun Stand Still". I bought it at the bookstore in the same shopping center that Elevation Church Matthews Campus is located. I know that really doesn't matter where I bought it or that it was so close to the live web broadcast. But this is a new way to reach people by preaching for 24 hours online to promote a new Christian book. This is not something I would see Andy Stanely, Adam Hamilton, or even Perry Noble (who was on the Sun Stand Still webcast via Skype). But I really believe that only Steven Furtick could do this. I have been a fan on and off of the Elevation Church movement here in Charlotte. I have been to church there. I have heard Furtick speak at several conferences. He has a huge heart for God and for a revival in the church. I think that his sermon's over the past 24 hours have been very powerful and he wants the world and society to change. I think it is really awesome how they have been giving away books, dvds, sermon series, and free resources during the past 24 hours. They see the big picture. They see that we should all work together and be the body of Christ. I am really looking forward to reading this book. And I will blog more on this in the upcoming days as I read it.