Wednesday, July 19, 2017

When You Realize You Need a Reset

This morning in my morning quiet time I wrote the following:



Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Fear can hold us back from doing what God wants us to do. Sometimes the unknown of what lies ahead can be daunting. If what lies ahead is from God it sure can be daunting but if it is God's plan for us we don't have to be afraid because he is with us each step of the way.


Discouragement is a fact of life, it comes from different sources in our lives. Sometimes even other Christians can be a source of discouragement because they don't understand God's plan for you or they aren't comfortable with the direction God is taking you. But when someone or something opposes us we need not be discouraged because he is with us each step of the way.


Joshua 1:9, This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Life is busy, life can be draining at times. I have seen many Christians fall to the wayside because they gave up. They felt they didn't have the strength to continue. Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 12:10, "That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Our strength shouldn't be found in anything we attempt to create in our lives. Our strength should be found in God.


I then get to my office and start thinking about some student ministry struggles and I became discouraged fast.  I’m a passionate person with strong emotions and it didn’t take me long, about a fifteen minute car ride to get discouraged.  If I’m honest I was even a little angry and ready to give someone a karate chop to the thyroid. (not one individual but possibly a representative of a group of people out of frustration and not talking about students here
)



I still don’t have the answer to the problem that caused the discouragement.  But two things happened.  I knew something had to change and took some necessary steps to begin the change journey.  Within seconds, literally seconds, God blessed that decision to begin the journey to change/improve and grow in student ministry, to hit the “Reset” button.  Seconds!  Faster than it took for me to get discouraged, a phone call from one thousand miles away.



Second thing happened about a half hour later.  I went to check a message on Facebook and there my eyes caught what I wrote just this morning around six-thirty.  “Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.”  



Fact number one:  This student ministry is not my student ministry.  It’s not my church’s student ministry.  This student ministry is God’s student ministry.  Belongs to him.



Fact number two:  I can get discouraged, which is my human nature taking over.  This discouragement doesn’t change the fact that the student ministry belongs to God.  So why let it get me down.



Fact number three:  When I start basing my effectiveness as a student minister on situations which I have no control of I am not as wise as I should be after fifty years of living life.



Fact number four:  Sometimes you have to step back , breathe, get with God and find out what direction you need to head next, and the changes that need to be made.  Hit the “Reset” button ;)

Friday, June 30, 2017

I'm Getting Refueled

I have been to the big national conferences. They were fun, I learned some stuff. But Refuel Retreat has been a totally different experience. If you get $$ to go to conferences or continuing ed I strongly urge you to check this out.

Here's why:
As youth pastor you are the point person, in the lead, the buck stops here, in your church's youth ministry. We cannot lead on empty. Big ballrooms full of free giveaways from youth ministry corporations don't matter. Break out sessions are great but not if you have no clue on the vision God has for the student ministry you lead. How can you lead others if you aren't leading yourself? Curriculum based conferences are good in helping you lead the curriculum but what if you are tired, spiritually and physically?

Wednesday I booked my airline tickets and my hotel room. I'm so thankful for a church that recognizes the value of sending staff off to learn and grow and connect.
This will be my third Refuel retreat. Each time I discover something new about myself and my relationship with Christ. Each time I come home with a road map, a plan, some direction where to lead our student ministry.

I have seen a huge shift in student ministry over the past 7 to 10 years.  In days of old to say we have youth group and pizza and students would flock to the church. In the past we would announce "sign up for camp" and students would sign up. Several years ago there were not so many different things vying for our students' time.  Families were not as busy as they are today.

I'm looking at our student ministry. When that 6th grader graduates high school I want him to know how to live out God's word in his life, I want him to understand who he is in Christ Jesus, I want him to realize his connection to the church and serving Christ. That's the kid who will go off to college and connect with a local church and continue growing in his faith.

How is that going to happen? Deep discipleship, someone(s) walking along side of the student challenging them in their faith, investing in their life, holding them accountable. Not every student wants this or is willing to do what it takes to be discipled. But there are some in every student ministry who are ready and those are the students who will be future leaders in the church, serving, on mission, making a difference in the world.  We only get our students for two hours a week at student church.  What are we going to do to make the most of that time?

“But Andy, if we focus on discipleship who students won’t evangelize.”  I agree that their has to be balance in fellowship, discipleship, mission, ministry.  I also know that a fully devoted follower of Christ, a disciple, will share their faith with others.



In order to lead this type of change in student ministry from event driven, youth group hanging out time, to purpose driven discipleship focused I need wisdom and guidance, I need my thinking challenged, and I'll experience this at Refuel Retreat.

Who wants to join me at Refuel Retreat?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Mission Trip Experience

I just returned last week from the island of Eleuthera.  On the island there is a Christian sports camp, Camp Bahamas.  Camp Bahamas is reaching Bahamian youth with the love of Jesus Christ and the gospel.  The nation of the Bahamas is in what I would call a dangerous position.  Last year seventy-five percent of all child-births were to singe moms.  75%!!  Sixty-five percent of the nation is under the age of 25.  I look at those two stats and see a nation’s strong need for Christ, young men need to know what it is to be a father, and as the pastor in the Bahamian church we attended said, not the “village ram”.  



Our student ministry now has three trips under our belt to this little island of rock and coral.  I witnessed our students’ lives impacted once again by witnessing children living in poverty.   Our team worked hard at the camp helping the staff get ready for their camp that starts next week.  In the afternoon our students led an outreach in the local settlement park, like a mini vbs.  Great experience for our team and I’m praying they bring that heart for serving back home and think of ways they can do similar things in our own community.

Each evening we had our team meeting and devotion/worship time.  I asked the students on the last night to share some things they learned about themselves, spiritually, impactful, etc.  This of course caused me to think about myself and what I learned.



I had a few days on the trip where I didn’t feel well at all.  I couldn't do much of anything for a few days of the trip.  For me, personally, this was very hard.  I didn’t want to sit and watch our team working and do nothing myself.  When you are on an island with no hospital or doctor you really have to listen to the advice of the camp nurse.  So sitting in the shade and “supervising” is what I was told to do.  When this was going on I was frustrated and disappointed.

On the last day I was thinking about the trip and evaluating the week.  I came to three realizations:



1.  I’m dependent on God.  I was in a position where the only thing I could do was to depend on Him.  I was out of control of what was going on in my body.  I couldn’t run up the road to the doctor’s office.  I was, as I always am, totally in His hands and dependent on Him.



2.  When we build ministry teams on our own personality rather than build a team of leaders we set ourselves up for crisis.  Our team had several team meetings over several months.  We covered: unity, flexibility, focus, discovering how God has wired us to serve and lead.  The result of these meetings and training was a team that jumped in and did what needed to be done without being under someone’s thumb or waiting for me, as their leader, to call all the shots.  Our team was a team of leaders and our students excelled in doing what needed to be done.


3.  Team chemistry is vital to success.  For the most part our team functioned in unity and worked together.  On every mission trip by Wednesday (mid-trip) everyone is tired, exhausted and this can play into how we respond and react to each other.  We had a short team meeting after lunch on Wednesday to remind everyone to respect each other and be aware of our own emotions and how we respond to others on the team.  When on the mission field in another country or even here at home, those we are serving and working with are watching how we interact and treat each other.  It’s important they see Christ in all we say and do.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Your Summer Ministry Checklist

Welcome to summer, everyone! For most of us, summer is a super busy season filled with camps, mission trips, amusement park days, retreats, service projects….the list goes on. We love these events, but they require a huge time investment on top of our normal planning and weekly programming. With all the busyness that comes with this wonderful season of sunshine and pool parties, let’s make sure we don’t forget what’s most important.

Read more of my recent blog post for LeaderTreks


Thursday, June 1, 2017

What's in it for the church?

Keanae Congregational Church, Keanae, Maui, Hi.

Whenever someone is trying to sell me one something I naturally ask “what’s in it for me?”.  Same goes with your church.  You may be in a church culture that has been solidly rooted in the idea that the staff does the ministry.  “I drop my money in the plate each week so we can pay you to be the one that stays up all night with the middle schoolers at a lock in.” 



I had the great blessing of living on Maui for several years.  A person may not understand  the attraction of going to Maui but if I pull out the photo album and start showing pictures of Maui the person will go “oooohhhhhh.  I want to go there.”  There is an attraction to the tropical especially when we start showing pictures of palm trees and crystal blue water and drinks inside of a hollowed out pineapple.  

Same thing can happen with student ministry once we start painting a picture of what student ministry is about.  People often think of us like cruise directors, we plan all the fun.  We need to share the stories of life change so the church can buy into more than just financing our position but invest time and talent/giftedness into students’ lives.



Active volunteers on a student ministry benefits the church.  Our church is healthier when we are serving.  We are taught in the Bible that we are expected to serve one another and we can’t be healthy as a body if we aren’t following God’s command to serve.  So the church will experience spiritual growth as our members roll up their sleeves and dive into ministry and that’s huge!

It will benefit our church by improving our reputation in the community.  When your town hears about, sees, and finds out that you have a group of adults who are investing each week into the lives of teens your church will be viewed differently by those you are hopefully attempting to reach.  When parents, not connected to a church, hear that your church is heavily invested in making a difference in teenager’s lives this will make your church more attractive to those parents.  Your church will benefit by growing.

There is the benefit to the church that involvement brings.  When a team serves together there are relationships built and fellowship happens.  Involvement is like a glue when it comes to keeping people from sliding out the back door of the church.  The tighter the team is, the stronger those relationships grow then the stronger the church will be.  Better involvement is what every pastor wants to see in the church body.  As you build your team other ministries in the church will take notice of what is going on and it can become infectious.  Soon the other ministries want the same type of fellowship that is built among the student ministry team.



Team building benefits the church because it boosts spiritual growth.  As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17)
As team members discover the joy of using their spiritual gift in the church the team members grow stronger in their relationship with God.
As team members realize their passion and see their passion expressed and involved in changing lives they grow stronger in their relationship with God.
As team members realize that the abilities they have acquired through life can be used to impact a teenager’s life they grow stronger in their relationship with God.
As a team members personality starts to shine through and be used to influence students for Christ the team members relationship with God grows stronger.
A team member, who as a child experienced the heartbreak of watching their parents split up, sits down and cries with and prays with a student who is experiencing the same grief in their life and the team member realizes that God can use them to help bring healing to a student that team members relationship with God grows.
As individuals in the church grow spiritually the local church grows stronger. 

The student ministry team can influence the impact and spiritual health of the entire church body.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Distractions


I find it so easy to get sidetracked.  I sit down to the computer to do write a message for student church then I find myself ten minutes later reading an article about manatees and the Florida Everglades.  How does this happen?  It is so easy to lose focus in life.  We are being bombarded with distractions.



I have found, in my past 25 years of church leadership, that Christians (self included) can get sidetracked and lose focus of what truly matters.  It’s easy to get in debates about things that in the end won’t change eternity.  It’s easy to allow emotions and feelings to move the focus from our purpose of sharing Christ to a self pity-party. 

Christians get side tracked by what this author says or did, by the color of the church’s new carpet, chairs vs. pews, small groups vs. Sunday school, music styles, and the list could go on and on. 

I get quickly sidetracked by complaints that have absolutely no impact on eternity. 

How do we keep from getting sidetracked?




Remember your purpose.  Why am I here?  What has God called me to do?  How have I been uniquely created and equipped by God to do what He wants me to do?  



Regain focus.  Quit looking over there when you should be looking towards Christ.  Satan is going to throw distractions at us left and right because he doesn’t want Christ followers to be successful in reaching others with the life changing good news of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love.  Quit focusing on self and focus on the Savior.

Remind others.  Remind those around you and who you serve with that if something doesn’t impact eternity you are not going to waste your time with it.  Arguments, debates, styles of worship, the temperature of the fellowship hall.  Life is too short and our task at hand is huge.




Robing.  (sorry I wanted to write “suit up” but just had to use another “R”)  

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Ephesians 6:11
The best way to take out the enemy is to infiltrate and attack from within.  The devil is no dummy and he uses this technique to his advantage.  Often I find myself getting sidetracked by other believers, usually it is due to unchecked feelings and emotions.  It’s by not living under the control of the Holy Spirit and the result is living lives that don’t display the fruits of the spirit.  We have to be ready for attack and remember that the attack isn’t on us personally, the attack is for who we stand for and for focusing on our purpose.






Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Life is Hard



Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.
Romans 12:12


Romans 12 is a great chapter full of what I would call a "to do" list. You should read it.

Life is not easy. It doesn't take long living this life to realize we will have times that hard. Sometimes it is our own fault and the result of decisions we have made. There are consequences to our actions and choices. Sometimes life is hard and we go through a tough time and it's no fault of our own. There are times that our struggle comes from the outside and we have no control over it.

This verse tells us what to do in those times. Here is the recipe:
1. Rejoice. Not put on a fake happy face and pretend everything is okay. Rejoice in our confident hope. We can, as Christ followers, rejoice because one day we will spend eternity with God the Father. When that day comes there will be no more struggles or trials of life. We can be confident in this because of the work Christ did on the cross.

2. Be patient. I'm the worst at patience. I can't stand waiting things out. I'm so bad that when I'm in the McDonald's drive thru I time them because I know it's "fast food" and they could certainly improve on how long it takes to get our order. As a society we are growing more impatient. We live in an instant gratification world. We must be patient during the tough times and understand that the One who we have confident hope in loves us and is in control.
God doesn't magically come along and pop us out of the trial.  We know that in the valley, the tough time, God is with us each step of the way and provides us His comfort and protection.  Realize He is right there with you.  Read through Psalm 23.

3. Pray. Not just once. Keep on praying. At the end of the day in our home I'm pretty tired, I'm the age of a grandad but I have 8 year old twins! Parents understand what I'm saying. At the end of each day our family sits down and we read a Bible story together and we pray together. I love hearing my children pray. My youngest is a praying dude. There are two kids he prays for each and every night, one is our compassion international child that we support and the other is a little girl who has cancer. Every night these two girls are in his prayer. He keeps on praying and as his father I love to hear him do this.
Same thing with our heavenly Father. He loves to hear you pray because when we pray we are talking to Him. It's conversation and what parent doesn't love having conversation with their kid?
This persistence in prayer shows God you need him and are trusting him.

Have you ever run out of gas on the road? I have once or twice. But there have been many times I've been running on fumes. Prayer can be the fumes that keep you going when you have run out of gas in life.
Life is hard and that is just a plain fact. There is no avoiding trouble and trials in this life. If you are in one of those life storms right now I pray you will put Romans 12:12 to practice. If you aren't in one of those storms keep this verse in mind because we all know the storm is coming.

 

When You Realize You Need a Reset

This morning in my morning quiet time I wrote the following:

 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God...