Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Before You Sign the Dotted Line

Part A

I knew God was calling me into full time student ministry.  I also knew I had zero training, schooling, education in student ministry. I grew up as a pastor’s and missionary’s kid so I was very familiar with ministry and the church.  I had a couple years under my belt as a volunteer youth minister but that was it. 

 

My approach wasn’t the best but it seemed to work.  I looked to see what churches in our denomination in our state had openings for youth pastor.  I found three churches who were looking for a youth pastor.  So I sat down at my Gateway computer and typed up a resume.  I remember thinking, “Who is going to hire a guy with no education in youth ministry?”.  Several weeks later I received a call from a pastor informing me that their search committee would like to interview me.  I was quite shocked.  It worked!



I did the interview.  The position wasn’t offered to me that day but I remember, as I drove off with my lovely wife to make the several hour drive back to our home, telling Misha that we needed to start collecting moving boxes.  I was confident that this was the church.  Even without the job offer I knew that this was where I was going, it was that clear to me.



A couple of weeks later I was asked to come meet the church, share my testimony, and be interviewed again . . . by the entire church.  After the morning worship there was a lunch and then for what seemed like an eternity I was asked questions.  All kinds of questions.  Had I been older and wiser I know I would have had some better responses to the questions.  I also would have been able to see through the questions to the heart of the question, why the person was asking the question.



I made it through the process and the church voted and I was hired.  I had my first student ministry position.  I was thrilled and excited.  I’m an entrepreneur at heart so new adventures always excite me.  Honestly I’m surprised any church would have hired me.  

As I look back I feel sorry for that youth group.  I was green, fresh and fairly stupid.  I know that I would be a much better youth minister to them today then I was then but of course after we do something for a long amount of time we would hope we are improving and sharpening our skills.


In my next post I'm going to give my advice, for what it's worth, to the new guy who is about to sit down to interview at a church.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

How It Started

Twenty-Four years ago I was sitting in a small church in a small town in Oklahoma.  I was already fully involved in the ministry by running the sound each Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday evening.   Yes, our church met three times a week, yes many times I wish we weren’t meeting.  I often went to church out of commitment but not out of desire, often out of a sense of obligation. (that’s another blog post in and of itself)



During my few years at this small church I watched the youth Sunday School class, which consisted of a handful of students, get a new Sunday School teacher each year and sometimes more than one teacher each year.  I had absolutely no desire to teach.  I had absolutely no desire to work with youth.  BUT I understood that as a member of that church I had a responsibility to do whatever needed to be done.  Sometimes you serve because it just needs to be done.  Its better and more enjoyable to serve when it fits your *SHAPE.

I found myself sitting in a room in the church with 5 teenage faces staring back at me.  So like any good Southern Baptist teacher I cracked open the quarterly and started teaching.  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the best teacher, I wasn’t the most prepared teacher but I knew I could give these students some stability and not see them handed off to a different teacher once or more per year.



Over time I started to get the hang of it.  I even started to enjoy teaching students.  Next thing I knew I was going with them to summer camp, taking them to amusement parks and planning events and activities.  A gentlemen in our church donated a storefront for us to have a “youth center”, a place for students to hang out.

I never had this moment in life where I knew, “When I grow up I want to be a youth pastor”.  I literally fell into the calling.  I volunteered and then eventually realized that this is what God wanted me to do full time with my life.  I remember our little church paid my way to go to Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth for a youth ministry conference.  That weekend conference was confirmation.



The next step was to figure out what to do.   How do I become a youth pastor at a church?  I was already a youth minister because I was ministering to students.



How did it start for you?
When did you sense God’s calling on your life for youth ministry?

Thoughts for you if you are just getting started on the youth ministry journey:



Be open - You never know what God might have in store for you.  Be open to God’s leading and direction.  He may change the direction you are heading.  He may want you to do something totally different from you thought you might want to do. 

Volunteer - If you are at that point where you know you want to minister to students then roll up your sleeves and volunteer in your own church until God opens the opportunity he has for you.

Don’t rush - Let God take the lead.  Be patient for His timing.  What He has planned for you is best and you don’t want to get in the way of that.

Read - Get your hands on some books about youth ministry and read.

Research - What are churches looking for in a student minister?  Do some digging, ask some questions, talk with some youth pastors for their input.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Drain

Ever had a ring or something valuable fall out of your hand and go sliding down the sink towards the drain?  You try to snag it with your hand but miss and even make a few attempts before it’s too late.  The ring goes sliding down the drain.  It’s a helpless feeling.



Same thing can happen to us in youth ministry.  I’ve seen times of plenty and times of scarcity.  Times when our little youth room was packed and times when we gather together and scratch your head trying to figure out where have the students gone?



It is a helpless feeling because you are watching it go down the drain and you are making attempts to stop it from happening but the attempts fail.



So you evaluate.

Are we teaching God’s word in a way that students find it relevant and practical to their daily lives?  Yes.

Do we have a team of caring adults investing into their lives?  Yes.

Is our meeting space attractive and appealing to students?  Yes.

Are we clearly communicating our vision and purpose?  Yes
Are we communicating with parents? Yes
Is the food awesome?  Heck yea!
Do you include time for students to build relationships?  Yes.

Have you created a place/atmosphere that students can enjoy? Yes.

The above are things that we as youth ministers can control.


What we can’t control as youth ministers:
The support of parents.

The parents making Student Church a priority.

Students making their youth group time a priority in their lives.

Students bringing friends.

Students making guests feel welcome
Travel ball

But don’t pull your hair out!  Don’t get depressed!  Why?

If we do our best that’s all we can do but more importantly listen to these words from our Savior:
"
Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it."  Matthew 16:18


We are to be faithful and do what God has called us to do.  The rest is in his hands.



Focus on the students he has given you.  Perhaps this is a season where the focus of the youth ministry is turning to something different to help build a stronger base or foundation for what is to come in the future.



All youth ministries go through cycles.  It’s natural.  I’ve heard youth pastors say, “All I seem to have is middle schoolers”, then a couple years later, “All I seem to have is high schoolers.”  You can’t explain these things.  Right now we have more middle school boys than girls.  How does that happen?  It’s usually the other way around right? 

We can do events that bring in the numbers but in the long run most of those numbers won’t stick around, won’t follow.  There is a smaller number that you are truly discipling.  So go for it with all you’ve got!

The point of this whole post is this:
Focus on who God has given you.
Be responsible in teaching and equipping them to grow and to reach their peers.
Realize that you can make conditions conducive to growth but you can't force growth.  
Let Jesus take care of the growth.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Managing Life Series Video

Recently discovered fiverr.com for graphic work and video.  Below is the video I had made for our new series that starts on Sunday.  This video cost us $35.  It's better than anything I could make, I don't have a graphic or video department.  Fiverr saves me lots of time.



Managing Life from Andy Lawrenson on Vimeo.

Friday, April 8, 2016

What Next?

The mission trip is over.  Everyone is unpacked, well, almost everyone.  Pictures continue to get posted and shared.  Friends, family and church folk continue to ask, “How was the trip?”



My question, “What is next?”  What is next for this team of sixteen?  Eleven students who for the past five weeks spent time each day in quiet time working their way through two different journals, raised the $1,000.00 each they needed to go on the mission trip, worked really hard on the trip, experienced the joy of sharing Christ with the little kids in the park, experienced the “mission trip high”. 

What next for the team?  They go back to school, playing ball, working their jobs. 

How can we bank on the investment this mission trip was in their lives?



Expose them to opportunities to share
Sunday night during our weekly student church we gave the whole team opportunity to share about their entire trip from the preparation to the last day of outreach in the park.  Give students an opportunity to talk about their experience.



Follow up with a letter

I sat down and wrote each student a letter to thank them for going on the trip and in each letter included something specific to that student that I observed on the mission trip.  I used this as an opportunity to encourage them to continue on with their great attitudes, hearts to serve and passion to share Christ back here at home in their community.  I only had to write eleven letters, if your group is large you may want to pull in other adult leaders to help.  You know how encouraging it is when you get that once in a blue moon note of encouragement.  Imagine how the students will feel when they get a real live letter, not email or text, but a letter at home from you.

Invite
Not only have I invited them to pray about the trip for 2017 but I have invited them to join our student leadership team.  The students just came back from an intensive hands on leadership lab on a tiny island in the Caribbean.  I’m going to jump on the chance to build the leadership team with students who exhibited leadership on the mission trip.

Resource
For a month before the trip the student worked through I Am a Servant from LeaderTreks.  On the trip and even this week at home they have been working through a mission trip journal that focused on Nehemiah.  Next I’m going to invite them to work though another daily quiet time journal on discipleship.  I want to help them have the habit of studying God’s Word and learn to feed themselves so when they graduate and move off to college I can sleep at night knowing our students have been taught how to study the Bible.

Plan

Start planning the next mission trip!  Include this year's team in the planning process.

Whatever you do don't let the mission trip be the "end", make it a beginning.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Back in the USA!

Our mission trip was a huge success!  We accomplished our goals.  When doing a mission trip it is good to set goals and then evaluate, this is the only way to know if the trip accomplished the purpose of the trip.

Our goals for the trip:

1.  Students to grow in their faith
2.  Students to grow as leaders
3.  To encourage the Camp Bahamas staff
4.  Our group to build stronger relationships
5.  Share the love/gospel of Jesus Christ

Our students shared on Thursday night during our team evaluation that they grew in their faith.  Some attributed the growth to the daily quiet time they had each day during the week.  Some said it was the fact that for 5 weeks they have been working through daily devotion books.  Others attributed their growth to the daily prayer journal they did each morning.



The team worked hard at whatever project they were assigned at the camp.  Leadership came into play at our park outreach in the afternoon.  Day one in the park the student floundered a bit, the adults on the team sat back to observe who would step up and lead.  That night we evaluated our day and how we could improve.  The next day the students dove right in and took charge at the park outreach.  Our outreach time was totally student planned and led.  The students grew as leaders.

We love the Camp Bahamas staff! At Camp Bahamas we were treated with incredible hospitality.  For us it was great to return a second year and spend time with the staff.  Our goal was to encourage the staff and to do whatever needed to be done at the camp with a servant’s heart.  Our team is already looking forward to returning next year.

When you spend a week together on any type of trip you either have drama or build stronger relationships.  Several of our team noted that their favorite part of the week was building relationships with others on the team.  The students who went on the trip are now closer than they were before they went on the trip.

The park outreach was our opportunity to share the gospel.  The students shared stories from the Bible and the last day they ended with sharing the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.  The crafts each day tied in with the story as did the snacks.  The kids played different games in the park with the children.  An investment was made and the seed was planted.  I got the opportunity to witness to a young man and came to find out that he had put his faith in Jesus Christ at Camp Bahamas as a camper.





If you are looking for a great mission experience for your youth group, or even a group of adults, I would highly recommend Camp Bahama Missions.  You sleep right there on the campus in the cabins, they feed you great meals and take excellent care of your team while you are there.  They are super appreciative of the work teams do on their camp to help them better minister to the campers in the summer.  Contact Camp Bahamas for more information or shoot me an email and I can help you get started on your Eleuthera mission adventure.