Sunday, December 19, 2010

Flexible During the Holidays

Youth group gatherings around Christmas can be a little frustrating at times. You put in the time and energy to prepare a talk, write out small group discussion questions, prepare your team, planning the game that requires at least a certain number of people, etc. then have less than a third of your students show up for youth group. I don't know about how things work where you live but around here people get really busy around Christmas with all the celebrations, performances, shopping, traveling and on and on.

I gave up. I gave up the frustration and it was a great feeling. What could we do differently? Our Christmas party always had a great turn out of students and then the rest of December and the first Sunday in January went downhill. Bowling was the answer. No preparation other than publicity. The years before we would have 12 to 15 students show up. The first time we put bowling on the calendar we had 40 show up and several were guests.

Why was bowling a success? I think students (and leaders) needed a break to do something that was just fun. Some might say that bowling isn't spiritual enough to replace the weekly scheduled youth group gathering. It is also good to break away from the "usual" from time to time.

The purpose is fellowship. Students building relationships with other students. Adult leaders investing in students. You get to know your kids better when you do the fun stuff like bowling and just hang out together. Your students get to know you and your leadership team better as well.

Our Parent Pod has jumped on board with the bowling as well. They usually meet during youth group so it made sense for them to just hang out together also. Parents building relationships with other parents of teens is a marvelous thing.

Will there be 40 this year? I don't know. I do know that myself and the YM team will get to spend some quality time with students. I also know this will connect us with our SBC roots as we gather to eat at Taco Bell following the bowling.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Critics (Part 5)

I guess what sticks in my craw is the fact that the critics are wasting time and energy. What if all the time they pour into creating their negative blogs and web sites were poured into meeting people's need to open the opportunity to share the saving message of Jesus Christ, what would happen? It's a safe bet that these blogs and web sites are driving more people away from the gospel then pointing them to the gospel. Why be part of a "religion" that is always fighting and attacking itself and can't get along together?

Were Peter and John perfect? No way. They were human just like I'm a human. As a matter of fact who were the ones in this event in their lives that got all upset with them? Not the one whose need was met, not the thousands who became Christ followers. The religious got upset. Translate to today. Satan is out to destroy the church. Satan is not going to attack from outside the church to destroy it he will attack from within. If he can get the church to attack the church his battle is much easier, faster and more efficient than trying to destroy from the outside. (Matthew 7:14-16)

Am I doing the same thing by posting this blog post? No, I didn't name any person's name or list any churches or web sites or blogs. I could have. I could post a hundred links below but the time to google and research and read and allow myself to be consumed with that would rob me of time I could be spending investing in a relationship, meeting a need, reaching out to someone who needs Christ.

I would love to see the church stop the Cyber Gossip. (and I bet Peter and John would like that too)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1st Annual Winter YM Team Retreat

Next month we will be having our first annual youth ministry team winter retreat. I'm excited about this weekend. I look forward to the training we will have, the discussions that will launch off each session. I hope it sharpens us as a team when it comes to investing into the lives of students. In the past we have gone to one day seminars and training events. I would really love to take the team to a large national youth ministry conference but due to our size and budget we can't do that (yet). So this year we are going to retreat together. (I have no idea why I didn't think of this sooner)

The plan is a simple one, I'm simple so simple plans work great with me. We are going to gather for a weekend next month in a vacation rental house, a really big one. We will eat meals together, hang out together, shoot pool, watch some movies, and play cards together (some Scrabble) and go bowling. Sprinkled through out the weekend we will have 5 training sessions and some time set aside for each of us to get alone and spend time with God in the Bible and in prayer.

So far the sessions we are going to look at are:
  • Developing Healthy Boundaries
  • Leading Small Groups
  • Living Authentically
  • Building Intentional Relationships
  • (the fifth one is still in the works)
We will also have a tutorial session on our new scheduling system.

Most of all I really look forward to hanging out with the best YM team around. I love these folks who spend a couple hours each week with the teens in our church. Youth Ministry at NHC is only possible because of our great team. I pity the youth leader who feels as if he/she can do the youth ministry all alone.

We will finish our retreat together over breakfast on Sunday morning before heading off to church.

Critics (Part 4)

So Andy, you don't think that we should confront the wrongs? Yes I do think we should. But I think we should confront the wrongs the way our Savior and Lord says we should.

Matthew 18
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Jesus tells me that I must go to the brother or sister who sins and point out their sin to them. If I'm unable to do this because I can't approach them then I need to trust that God, who is in control, will place someone in their path to confront them, someone in their circle of influence, congregation of friend relationship. Jesus' verses above show, I believe, that this confrontation is to take place among believers who have a relationship with each other.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Critics (Part 3)

Here is the deal, the truth. Websites and blogs, authored by "Christians", that attack other believers and churches is essentially the body of Christ turning on itself, the church attacking the church. When the body attacks itself it is essentially a form of spiritual cancer. This is why I call it Cyber Gossip. Gossip, whether true or false or disguised as a prayer request, is talking or writing or blogging about someone else without them present. Gossip is a sin. I learned a song when I was a kid in Sunday School, "Oh be careful little eyes what you see..."

Come to me to talk about someone behind his or her back, especially in a negative, critical spirit and I would tell you to your face, "Don't gossip. Go talk to this person face to face". These critics today would write negatively about Peter and John without ever speaking to them in person. Their response would probably be, "I can't get a meeting with Peter and John." Exactly the point!

Your job, my job, as believers is not to run around playing the role of deputy Holy Spirit. I'm not the one who will judge. God is the almighty God and the church, the Body of Christ, belongs to him so let Him do the judging. Let God fix the "problem". There are churches in our community that I disagree with in some areas and would even think they are wrong doctrinally but it's not my place to post a blog or web site devoted to tearing their church down. Peter and John were appointed by God to be apostles and if someone has been put in a place of leadership in the church I better not be attacking them. (2 Kings2:23-25)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Critics (Part 2)

It's a shame but in this age we live in with the technology we have the Internet has become an avenue for what I call, "Cyber Gossip". It is super easy to find hundreds if not thousands of web sites and blogs that are dedicated to pointing out the wrongs (or what is perceived as wrong by the authors) of other believers and churches. Websites and blogs litter the WWW and all they are known for is what they are "against" and not known for what they are "for".

Peter and John would be plastered on those sites today. Why? First of all they met a man's need but without first telling him he was a sinner in need of repentance. There are many believers out there today that are all about the "preaching" but want to do nothing about meeting the physical need first. Meeting the need opens the door to the gospel and a simple study in the life of Christ proves this point. Second, thousands became Christ followers after hearing their message so there must be something wrong with that. Thousands don't come to Christ at one time. What was really going on? I don't know if you want to call it a distrust or jealousy/envy but some believers just can't handle it when a church or pastor is being obedient to Christ and the church is growing and maturing and healthy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Critics (Part 1)

I've recently started reading in Acts for my daily quiet time. In chapter 3 Peter and John encounter the man who had been crippled for forty years. The cripple man was begging for money, this is how he survived. Peter and John have no money to give him but they meet his greatest need, they bring healing from God to this man's life.

Next we find them preaching about Jesus Christ. As the result of the people witnessing this need being met in this man's life and through hearing about Jesus Christ 5,000 men become Christ followers and that's not including the women and children saved that day.

As I thought about this event in the life of a crippled beggar and thousands who came to know Christ I wondered what would be the response from the church today if this happened, December 9, 2010?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Organizing Takes Time

Organizing takes time but it takes even longer if you don't keep things organized. I'm not a neat freak and this is evidenced in my office. I have always filed away documents on my computer with no rhyme or reason. The result is a constant searching for documents and graphics, etc.

Today I finally came to the point that I realized that as our church grows so does "my documents". So I spent the better part of the afternoon creating nice and neat little blue folders and started moving documents around to their proper folder. Now instead of a jumbled mess there are nice neat rows of folders in my finder. Now when someone says, "I'm interested in joining the youth ministry team I don't have to spend 10 minutes looking for that team handbook and application to e-mail to them, I simply open my finder and click on Team Applications and then send them the proper document.

If I had taken the half a minute to set these folders up as I went along I would not have spent the 3 hours today organizing. My desktop? Glad you asked. It is totally clear and clean.

I feel I can function better now. Okay, next week I'll tackle the office!
What do you do to stay organized?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Contagious Youth Weekend

We had a busy weekend with the youth group this past weekend.  It is important in youth ministry to not do activities simply to fill a calendar with events.  Some churches equate busyness with accomplishing ministry leaving some youth leaders to be basically "cruise directors".  We strive to do activities that have a purpose behind them.  So that's what we did this weekend.  Here is the snapshot:

Saturday morning:  Clean Up  Cost= a box of Dunkin Munchkins
Our youth space at the church building has yet to be completed.  Saturday we blocked off the morning to clean out the room and help prepare for the beginning of construction.  The students showed up in force (around 30) to clean.  What I thought would take all morning was done in an hour and a half!  I shared with the students the picture, from my mind, of what the youth room will be like.  We then talked about the purpose of the room.  It is a space that will be "awesome" for students to bring their friend to.  The students are stoked about the future youth room.

Saturday Evening: Fast Food Progressive Dinner  Cost = $115 budget, $155 from participants.
Everyone received a paper lunch bag with four pieces of paper.  Each piece of paper had a different course of the meal, drink, burger, side, dessert.  Upon arriving at each restaurant they reached in their bag and ordered what they pulled out, so the meal was all mixed up.  (we carried bottled water along so they didn't have to choke down food)  The evening was lots of fun.  We also put a symbol on the bottom of each bag.  Their symbol signified which vehicle they were riding in so the group was mixed up.  The purpose was fellowship, building relationships.  We charged the $5 to participate to help cover the expense of the food.  It averaged about $9 per person.  We didn't limit what they could order.  Side note:  Wendy's was our most expensive stop.  Wendy's and McD's gave me free food.

Sunday Evening:  Operation Turkey in a Box  Cost = $160.00
Church partners donated ten turkeys.  We purchased, from the youth budget, the items a family would need to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  We fed ten families for about $160.00.  The students gathered together with their POD leaders and loaded the boxes and then went out into the community and delivered the meals.  The purpose was mission, sharing the love of Christ with those in need in a practical way.  We also helped a couple families from our church so we also did a little ministry.  This event tied in perfectly with our series at Contagious and Sunday mornings series about loving others.  Some students shared with me their experience delivering and it sounds like it was a good way to remind them to be thankful for what they have.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Prepared for What you Expect? Part 3

The church wants to have a youth involved in their church. They want to see students pouring in the doors. They once had a "part time" youth pastor who saw the group grow to around twenty something students. The church staff committee didn't like the way the youth pastor did his job and that he was only putting in 20 hours a week so they fired him. Now the youth group has shrunk to 6 students and one has to be there because he is the pastor's son. If he had a choice he would go elsewhere and if his dad wouldn't catch heat from the church he would let his son go elsewhere.

Currently the only thing they have to offer is youth Sunday School at 8:45 in the morning. The Sunday School teacher shows up reads from a quarterly without any obvious preparation and then after the class is over the teacher leaves and doesn't attend the worship service (the teacher doesn't like the preacher). Two of the youth attend the Sunday School class, one is there because he has to be. The church keeps telling the students they are going to hire a youth pastor yet have budgeted no funds for a youth pastor or for youth ministry.

Problems? You bet!
  • You shouldn't pay "part time" and demand full time work
  • You shouldn't fire a youth pastor who is reaching students
  • The students feel betrayed by their own church
  • The pastor sees the reality but is trapped because he too doesn't want to lose his job
  • Don't scratch your head trying to figure out why students won't get out of bed early on a Sunday morning for a boring unprepared lesson
  • Sunday School teacher = a church leader who has problems with the pastor and doesn't support her church
  • A youth pastor isn't the magic cure for this church's youth ministry
Is there a fix? Can the church prepare for what they expect? Absolutely!
  • Be realistic when hiring a youth pastor
  • Don't expect full time work at part time pay
  • Involve the students in the youth pastor search process (that might help towards healing the feeling of betrayal)
  • Let the pastor lead in the hiring process and supervision of the youth pastor
  • Make sure the pastor has realistic expectations
  • Let the SS teacher, who is not really interested in being there, off the hook and don't worry about not having a SS class until you find a replacement. Perhaps let the 2 students attending serve in a children's class during the process
  • Help the church to see that bringing in a youth pastor does not equal immediate results (it takes about 5 year or longer to begin to see results)
  • Budget. If you are going to hire a youth pastor then budget for a youth pastor and budget enough that he can live on the income. Keep in mind the cost of living in the area
  • Budget. If you are expecting to have a youth ministry then expect it to cost money. Somewhere between $700 to $1500 per student per year. So if you expect 50 students plan to budget around $35,000 or more
  • Remember that a youth pastor is not a cruise ship activity director. There is no sense in filling a calendar full of activities that have no purpose behind them
  • If the church isn't financially able to hire a youth pastor then pray together that God will raise up someone in the church with a passion to see students radically changed by the gospel who can volunteer to lead
Finally (personal pet peev) make sure to clarify that youth ministry is not the same as children's ministry. I met with a pastor and a volunteer once who were wanting to get something going for their youth and she kept referring to them as the "chillren". I told her that teens don't want the same label as 3rd graders.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last Sunday at Contagious

The purpose of the night was to empower students to meet their peers in their hurt and to help others rewrite their stories based on how God sees them.

Hang Time was a lot of fun. A few tables of board games going on and some ping pong. Students also gathered in little groups and just hung out talking and visiting with each other. Leaders were all in the mix with the students as well. Hang Time is my favorite time at Contagious.

We started the worship time off with an excellent ice breaker and the PODs had to work together to accomplish 25 tasks on a list. They had a 20 minute time frame to complete the tasks, all of which were fun and goofy. The winning POD received a $50 gift card to Slice Pizza so they can go out to dinner together as a POD.

We showed a clip from the movie, To Save a Life. The whole point of the clip was to help students to see that how we can help someone rewrite their story.

The students followed that video clip up with an interactive experience. They wrote a brief one sentence logline on a piece of paper and taped it on the front of their shirt. On their back they taped a blank paper. The students then mingled together and read each other's loglines. They each chose someone and rewrote their new logline, as God sees them, on their back piece of paper.

Following the experience they gathered in their PODs and read their new logline then discussed them together. We ended the evening with me sharing two stories. One story of Margaret who was an adult woman who had struggled over 40 years with an event that happened to her in school where she was the object of ridicule by her teacher and classmates. Jesus rewrote her story with his love. We looked at a short guy named Zacheus and how God took a guy who's logline was "hated by others" and changed it to "a son of Abraham" the highes compliment a jewish man could receive at the time.

This coming Sunday we take a break from our current series, sort of. We continue to learn about loving others as our students will gather with their PODs and deliver complete (uncooked)Thanksgiving meals to families who will be blessed by the meal. A hands on experience in sharing the love of Christ in a practical way.

Friday, October 29, 2010

What does that say to your community?

I'm excited about Sunday night. It's Halloween and I get to eat cotton candy! But I'm more excited that several years ago we made a change. We used to have the "harvest party" that targeted our church kids and not the community. The event was inward focused. It was our attempt at a safe alternative to trick or treating for our kids. We would have said it was for the community but the attendance proved the opposite.

How do we take an event in the community and use it? We decided that we would do Trunk or Treat. First of all Trunk or Treat required us to move our little "party" out of the safety of the four walls of the church building and into the parking lot where the public could see and not just see but attend. The first year attendance was rather low but was better attended than the harvest party.

Over the years Trunk or Treat has grown. This year we will see thousands come onto our church's property for the event. Hundreds will even funnel into our building for the free food and for their children to play games. Sitting in my office are 1600 gospel tracts to place in the kids' candy bags.

The harvest party catered to the church. Trunk or Treat is for the whole community. The approach on how we treat October 31st changed. NHC took it's eyes off "self" and looked out beyond the four walls.

I've gotten wind of churches who usually have an event "for the community" on October 31st canceling this year because it falls on Sunday. What does that say to the community? I think it is a shame and speaks volumes to the community. Too often we forget that church is not for us, we are the church and the church is for those that need the love of Jesus Christ.

Some churches choose to do nothing on halloween or to continue to do their harvest parties. That's OK. That is up to each individual church. I'm glad that NHC sees this as an opportunity to get the word out to the community through our actions that we love them and care for them and we do so because Jesus loves them and cares for them.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prepared for What You Expect? Part 2

Situation #2

A family is looking for a church to connect with. They are new to the community and are looking for a church family to grow with as they raise their children. They arrive on Sunday morning. After parking they get out of the car and there is no one to greet them or any signage to point them in the right direction. They see what appears to be the main entrance for the church so they head that direction. When entering the lobby it is obvious the children stay in the worship with their parents as they see children scurrying around the auditorium.

The family receives their bulletin and heads in to find a pew to sit in. It takes a few minutes to find a seat because the church seating is at around 85% capacity. After getting comfortable they look around and assess that there are a lot of children in this church. They are excited about that but also wondering if there a worship service for the children.

Soon the music starts. There is a struggle a time or two as the parents try to keep their kids from bouncing off the pew because they bored. As the worship in music ends the pastor approaches the podium and announces that all the children can go with Miss Nancy to children’s church. The majority of the children stand up and head out of the auditorium with “Miss Nancy”*. Their children want to go but the parents don’t allow them because they don’t know where the children are going and who is working with them.

Worship in an atmosphere with limited distractions is important to this family, as is worship for their children at their children’s level. The music came to a great point for the pastor to deliver the message and then the whole “mood”, if you will, is broken by the interruption and waiting for the children to exit.

At the end of a service where the parents didn’t hear the message the pastor preached because they were trying to keep squirmy active children entertained quietly the parents decide as they leave that this isn’t the church for them. As they exit the building they see the children running around the church lawn and parking lot without adult supervision.

This church wants to reach young families but they are not prepared to do handle what they expect.

Some thoughts to help this church in this situation:

>Have someone in the parking lot pointing parents with small children in the direction they should go with their kids. Have helpful directional signs around the building(s).

>Have a secure check in system so every child is accounted for. Use nametags and have a corresponding security tag for the parents. Even for the regular attendee’s so the guests don’t feel “pointed out”.

>Have parents drop off their child at the door of children’s worship and have parents pick their child up at the same place.

>Train a team of adults to rotate every other Sunday in leading a children’s worship time from start to finish. A place where children go and worship while there parents are in “big church”. This will keep Miss Nancy* from missing the sermon every week. Shoot for a ratio of one adult per six children.

>Go with a “plug and play” curriculum. If reaching families is important to the church then there has to be a financial investment. No “cheap” fixes. Most adults don’t want to lead children’s church because they don’t want to teach or they don’t have the time to prepare the lesson each week. Let’s face it in order to communicate with children and keep their attention you have to be good, really good. Most of us are not at that the level of “really” good. Many with the gift of teaching are more attracted to lecture style, which won’t hold a child’s attention. Children need interaction. The last thing you want is someone who glances at the lesson over their Sunday morning coffee and that is the extent of their prep time. At NHC we use Kidmo and Lil’ K and it works great at teaching Biblical truth to children while holding their attention.

>Do away with the parade. The parade of children leaving the auditorium is for the benefit of the older folks who like to look and smile at all the little children that are in their church. Meanwhile mom and dad would love a break where they can focus their hearts on worship, a time to focus on their own spiritual nourishment so they can be spiritually healthy in leading their family. Maybe even a few minute break before the service begins to have coffee with some other parents. Ask the parents; my bet is they would love to see their children engaged in a worship service that targets their child’s comprehension level. If the older folks want to see all the little children they get in on leading children’s worship or provide a Parent’s Night Out so mom and dad can have a date and invest in their marriage.

The result of these simple changes would speak volumes to the families checking their church out.

Imagine parents dropping their kids off in a kid friendly environment where children are playing games, singing, learning a lesson about God.

Imagine groups of parents standing around before the service with a cup of coffee and talking together and building those important relationships that act as a glue to keep them connected to their church.

Imagine mom and dad sitting in the auditorium worshipping without distraction. Their hearts and minds focused on praising and worshipping God and learning from His Word.

Imagine mom and dad picking up their children and receiving a worksheet to do at home with their child during the week equipping/resourcing mom and dad to be the discipler of their child.

Imagine the distractions removed from the corporate worship.

Imagine the extra seats the church now has in their pews to fill with more guests as they reach their community. This church would go from 85% capacity to 60%, plenty of seats for new folks.

What does your church expect in children's ministry and in reaching families and are you prepared for it?

*Miss Nancy is a fictional character any similarities to Miss Nancy and this church are coincidental. (Well almost coincidental)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Last Night At Contagious

Last night we had a great time at Contagious. I'm not sure what the game is called but the students started some sort of slap the person next to you hand game. They were having fun playing this "elimination" game during Hang Time. Other students and leaders were out on the parking lot playing football while inside there was some ping pong and Apples to Apples going on. Hang Time is one of my favorite times in our youth ministry. It gives us, the youth leaders, a chance to sit around and talk with students and build relationships.

Our lesson last night was "You are not Alone". We played the "I've never..." game where a student stands in the middle and says, "I have never _______" and whoever has _______ must get up and switch seats. The last one standing then goes to the center and says, "I have never _______" and it repeats over and over. We then did a debrief and asked those in the middle how they felt. Some of the answers were, "everyone was looking at me", "alone", "not connected with those in the circle", etc. Sometimes in life we have those feelings and so do many others around us.

We then watched a movie clip from To Save a Life. You can watch it here, click on "I feel so alone."

Following the video clip we pretended the middle of the auditorium represented the river of life's pains. I then asked students to remain silent and if I read a statement that applied to them to walk across the "river". "If you are stressed out" cross the river, almost the entire group crossed. "If your parents are divorced cross the river" and more than a third crossed. We kept repeating different struggles and pains that we face in life. Interestingly enough no one ever crossed the river alone. The point was made, we are never alone and others are going through struggles just like you and I.

In their POD time students and their leaders debriefed the "Cross the River" exercise. From where I sat there were some good conversation going on. Students were opening up and leaders were caring. I think that's huge.

I then shared how we, as humans, tend to value some more than others. Some are twenty dollar bills and others we view as pennies. Jesus, the creator, the Son of God, came as a humble servant. If anyone deserved to have a high value, a crisp brand new one hundred dollar bill, it was Jesus yet he considered himself a servant. He came as a scuffed up penny. This puts life into perspective. We are all pennies. Our value is found in Jesus Christ's love for us. He loved us enough to die for us and that makes us valuable to God.

We took a look at Philippians 2:5-8

It has been 3 weeks since our "reboot". If my math skills are correct our youth group has grown 19% in attendance from the previous month. Students are memorizing scripture and attending Sunday morning worship. Last night our group was comprised of 65% regular Contagious students and 35% guests and MIA's who have come back. I think the "reboot" has been a good thing. My prayer is that God continues to work in Contagious Youth and that our students keep reaching out to their peers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Prepared for What You Expect? Part 1

Something that in recent years that has really impacted my view of ministry is the fact that sometimes we aren't prepared for what we expect.

Let's say I'm a first time guest to a church. I'm looking for answers and help in life. I'm looking to connect with God. My family is important to me. So I start checking out churches in my community.

We decide to check out church #1 on the list. We arrive and there is no signage or direction on where we should take our baby. We finally figure out on our own where the nursery is. The nursery is one room with a boat load of babies from tiny infant to probably three years of age. There was adequate staffing but they were all in one big room and the church has several usable rooms. There was no check-in, name tags or security system at all to make sure the right kids went home with their parents. Pick up time was a bit chaotic as parents just crowded the doorway to the nursery nursery workers were opening the door to let parents in and keep babies from escaping.

More than likely if I had been a first time guest I would not have returned and would have looked elsewhere for a church home. Why? I want my kids to be safe. I want to be given a sense of "these folks have it together" instead of "we are just winging it". Parents want a sense of comfort when leaving their babies in a nursery.

Church #1 is expecting to reach families. Are they prepared for what they expect? A few simple "tweaks" of what is already in place could make a huge change and impact first time guests:
1. Age divide the nursery into at least two groups according to age or milestones.
2. Post nursery staff's names outside the doors.
3. A simple sign in sheet where parents write their name and the name of their child(ren)
4. Order some two part lables for the babies to wear that identifies the baby as well as their need and also has a corresponding security number that matches the label the parent has.
5. Set up a flow of traffic for parents after the service is over.
6. Place a gate across the door and not allow parents or non nursery staff in. Parents hand their babies over the gate and at pick up time the babies are handed back over the gate.

These "tweaks" could be made with a very minimal financial investment and a little organization/administration and a little "training" of the parents.

If we expect to reach young families what are we prepared for that expectation?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Last Night At Contagious

We had a great time last night at Contagious! Hang Time is always fun just hanging out and building relationships. Apparently Bananagrams was the hit game last night. We partook of some very healthy Doritos, Cheetos and cake. I got energized by the red Kool Aid, the red one always seems to give me a little extra zip!

Contagious (the band) led us in worship in music. It was great to see some new students in the band doing their thing, using the shape God has given them to serve. Some new techies are being trained to use the sound board and Mac. It will be cool to watch our new ministry teams grow and become and integral part of our youth gathering each week.

We are currently doing the study series, To Save a Life. The series is all about discovering God's love and sharing His love with others. Last night we took a look at Ephesians 1:3-6. This passage took on a whole new look for me this past week as I studied.

At the time Paul wrote this to the church in Ephesus he was writing to a hodge podge of folks that made up this church. Many were slaves and prostitutes. In the Hellenized culture that was bumped up a notch by the Romans the unwanted babies, due to some type of deformity or imperfection or blemish or parents wanted a boy and got a girl, would be taken to a certain mountain side and left to die. Then people would take advantage and go collect these babies to raise them to be slaves or prostitutes for financial gain.

So all their lives they grew up with this idea that they were unloved and not wanted. They were brainwashed to think their only worth to society was the services they provided and nothing to do with who they are. I would encourage you to read this section of scripture from the viewpoint of these "unwanted" people. Think about how they must have felt when they heard that before they were even born God loved them and created them just the way they were blemishes and all.

The point last night was to help students realize that we can't share the love of God with the hurting and lonely until we discover just how much God loves them.

We also viewed a clip from the movie To Save a Life, a scene that showed how some kids aren't accepted because they aren't "cool enough".

Monday, October 11, 2010

10 Years at Nags Head Church

Yesterday marked my 10 year anniversary here at Nags Head Church. I'm always caught by surprise by the day. I'm not good at dates, I know the month is October, but the date isn't embedded in my brain. Perhaps now I can accept the fact that I’m above average. The average stay of a youth pastor is 3.9 years. Some say it is 18 months but either way I’m above average.

I reflected some on “10 years”. With so many youth pastors lasting a short time why have I lasted at NHC? (The following are not in any certain order)

1. NHC is very patient with me
2. NHC is the church I would plug into if I lived here and were not on staff
3. NHC is where God wants me
4. NHC is a serving church with well over 90% of our partners involved on a ministry team
5. NHC has a leadership structure that brings balance
6. NHC knows her purpose and builds all she does around that purpose
7. NHC is a match for me
8. NHC has taken care of me and my family’s needs
9. NHC loves my family
10. NHC’s Youth Ministry Team is fantastic

How much longer do I plan to be at NHC? As long as I’m effective at youth ministry. I just hope I get to stay around NHC for a long time.

Thanks NHC for being the church God has called you to be. Thanks NHC’s leadership for having the guts to go with God and His direction.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday Night at Contagious (the Reboot)

I didn't post yesterday because I was wading through the hundreds of e-mails that accumulated during my holiday.

Sunday night we kicked off the evening with a lovely and moving video from Edwin's Corner. We followed Edwin up with some giveaways from the movie To Save a Life. If that wasn't exciting enough we threw in a race game. The students were divided into three teams and cheered on their team's racing rhino as they raced across the big screen. I would say that by the amount of screaming and cheering the race game was a hit.

We talked about Reboot. If you own a PC (mac owners please excuse me a moment) you know those three magic keys to reboot your computer when it is stuck. It is easy in the Christian life to get "stuck". We talked about Rebooting our time with God in Bible reading and prayer, sharing our faith with our friends, getting involved in ministry and confession.

Part of Reboot revealed that the way we live out our faith has a direct impact on the rest of the group. Each part (tying in with NHC's Body Part series) influences the other parts. The focus was on the personal responsibility for the areas mentioned above.

We had several guests on Sunday night which is always fantastic! Much "fellowship" happened during Hang Time. More on Reboot and next Sunday night to come later this week.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Youth Group is Church

Pastors Rick and Tom are doing a series in Sunday morning worship on “Body Parts”. Rick’s message on Sunday was right on. It was good to hear what I expected to be “same old, same old” in a fresh and new way.

The text is Romans 12:4-5:

4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

This once again got me to thinking about youth ministry because Rick said, “youth group is church”.

So many church folks have the idea that church is this institutional organization that meets on Sunday mornings. The building is the church to some. Let’s go to “church”. Fact is that when your small group gets together during the week that is church. When you go and help someone in your church with a need that is the church ministering. The church isn’t the pastors/elders. The church is you the church is me.

For about 17 years those who don’t realize or understand that the youth group is church have perplexed me. When the students get together for worship or fellowship then that is the church getting together.

I know of parents who wouldn’t dream of letting their kid skip Sunday morning worship. Why? "Because that’s church. “In our house we go to church”. Let’s carry that logic on out a ways. If youth group is church why let them skip or not even attend at all, not get involved? Just curious.

Once a student in our youth group was grounded and that included from youth group and I asked the student’s father in church the next Sunday morning if he would ground his son from church? The dad replied, “No.”. Then I asked, “Isn’t the youth group the church?” He then smiled and said, “I get it”. He didn’t ground his child from youth group again.

I know that some view youth group as “fun and games”. This may be true in some youth ministries where fun and games is their focus but not in most groups. Sure we play “Man, Gun, Gorilla” followed by some worship in music then Bible study. I think some may be jealous that we don’t have a few games in “big church” on Sunday mornings. But youth group is the church doing church geared and aimed at reaching students so they can come to know Christ and become part of the church as well. Youth aren’t the church of the future they are the church today. The worst is when the pastor doesn't "get it". Glad I'm not in that church.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Contagious Reboot

My part time summer job with Tubbs Hot Dogs has come to an end. This job now becomes more of a part time part time job. I enjoyed serving up dogs to the folks who shopped at Tanger Outlet this summer but now I get to focus a little more on my passion.

Today I really enjoyed my time thinking and writing down my thoughts on the future of the youth ministry at NHC. I'm calling it Contagious Reboot. As I get more thoughts ironed out I look forward to sharing them on the blog.

In the past year we have had several students move away and graduate. It feels almost like starting fresh again. That is exciting to me! This fall Contagious is really going to focus on encouraging our students to reach out to their friends and neighbors at school, to show them the contagious love of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday our youth ministry team will be getting together for about an hour or so for me to throw some thoughts and ideas at them and then let those thoughts and ideas bounce around and see what happens. In October I will be meeting with some student leaders to get some input and ideas from them. I also plan on popping in on the Parent POD and sharing some of these thoughts with them as well. I see great opportunities for the parents to reach other parents of teens by using the Parent POD.

I'm excited about what is to come this fall in youth ministry on the OBX.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Last Night At Contagious

This morning I heard the song over and over in my head, Friends are Friends Forever...

The summer has come to an end. One of the glorious parts of what I do as youth pastor is load up the Big Blue Van of Happiness each Sunday with the food and gear we need for Contagious on the Beach. This morning I unloaded for the last time this year. I washed the table, cleaned the grill and coolers, vacuumed the sand out of the back of Big Blue. I took the volleyball, that often doubled as a beach soccer ball, and rinsed off the sand. Goodbye my friend. I'll miss youth group on the beach!

Last night we saw the return of some students who went MIA this summer. It's always nice when kids return after a long absence. We also had a couple of guests and we always enjoy having guests at Contagious. Hot dogs were consumed, large sloppy surf was observed and I showed off my volleyball skills. Red flags were flying so we couldn't go swimming. Parent Pod is still going and will continue to do so through the school year. They will be starting a series of lessons on managing anger in a couple of weeks. I'm glad we have parents who recognize the benefit of building relationships with other parents and investing in each others lives.

We have a great team of volunteer youth workers on the YM Team at NHC. I'm glad God is allowing me to work with them ministering to students. This coming Sunday they get a night off as we have our church picnic. Love picnics!!

Here is last night's lesson in a nutshell:
Colossians 3:15-17
1. Real Peace - the source of real peace and peace with each other.
2. Christ's Word Living in You - as you teach each other (students should be teaching each other and not depending on us old toots to do all the teaching) and worship together.
3. Living out your faith - whatever you say and do. Are the things you say and do done in the name of Jesus?

POD Discussion:

1. What do your friends do to try to find peace in their lives?

2. Why is it important for us as Christians to get along with each other and have peace with each other?

3. What would your life look like if you lived out this verse?

Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Phil 2:3

4. What steps can you take in your life to let God’s Word dwell (live) in you?

5. How can you teach others about Christ and His Word?

6. How would living out this verse affect your life?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus
Col 3:17

7. Am I living out my faith, by living a life where everything I say and do is done in the name of Jesus?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Night At Contagious

Last night we had yet another great evening of doing youth group together on the beach. Summer is coming to a close and starting the middle of next month we move Contagious back to the church building and will say "so long" to the beach till next summer.

We are spending out summer traveling through the book of Colossians. Last night we were in Colossians 3:12-14. We looked last week of the sin stuff we need to get rid of in our lives and so last night we took a look at the replacements. The virtues we should be practicing in our lives.

We all have to replace things in our lives. Every couple of years it's time for a new cell phone so we replace it. Every couple of years, unless you own a Mac, you are replacing your PC or hard drive because it got a virus or you are tired of pressing "control, Alt, delete" all the time. So we are used to replacing things in our lives. Replacing the bad stuff with the good stuff is something we should always be looking to do.

Here's a snapshot of our lesson from last night:
Colossians 3:12-14

1. Put on your clothes!

Each day we get up and get dressed. We need to do the same with the virtues listed in verse 12. It is a daily decision to be compassionate, kind, humble (not a door mat but putting others first), gentle and patient. I don't have time to keep typing about patience let's hurrty to point #2.

2. Offer forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not telling someone that what they did to hurt you is okay. Forgiveness is not holding that against them any longer and allowing bitterness to take root in your own life. Forgive as Christ forgave.

3. Get the Glue.
Love binds all these virtues together along with the forgiveness. Without the love of Christ in your life you don't have "the glue".

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Think It Is 17

This will be my 17th summer of attending camp with students. Back in the old days I was pumped and excited about going to a week of camp. The lack of sleep didn't bother me back then. The waking up at 6am and going till 1 or 2 didn't phase me. Now I'm old! I don't look forward to camp like I used to. What?! Did a youth pastor just say that?

I don't like:
>the 4 or 5 hours a night of sleep
> the van ride home while everyone sleeps in the van and I must stay awake.
> camp food. Institutional food lacks at most universities.
>walking in the heat and humidity
>sleeping on a plastic coated mattress.
>telling a teenage boy or girl, who should know by this point, that they need to take a shower (there is enough oil in your hair to lube my truck)
>explaining over and over again how their cell phone will distract them during the week of camp with the endless texts they will receive, read, and respond to.
>when students who knew for months that they could go to camp but procrastinated till the last minute and as a result missed the deadline.
>most of all being away from my family for the week. As my children are growing this weighs even more on me and probably soon they too will be traveling to camp and staying at a hotel nearby or something. Last year my 6 month old daughter was taken by ambulance to the ER while I was at camp, that was very hard on us. (I would much rather share a room with my wife than with the assistant to the youth pastor, Rich Coleman)

I do like:
>watching students bond with each other and build friendships
>hanging with students
>the awesome worship times
>watching them compete in the recreation
>taking them to the Texas Inn to eat
>observing them connecting with God
>when that one life is radically changed and the "camp commitment" is for real.
>thinking that next year we are going to change it up big time for camp.

You can follow our camp adventure at our camp blog site. There you can connect with your teen through e-mail and listen in on our evening worship sessions.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's Obvious

Often in ministry it is obvious when someone doesn't "get it".

Our youth band led worship last Sunday and did an outstanding job. These students love using the SHAPE God has given them to worship and serve Him and His church. I heard several great compliments and encouragement given to the Contagious band. I might be a little biased but these kids are the best student worship band I have heard.

I don't read anonymous notes or comments from folks because if someone doesn't have the courage and character to say something to my face then whatever they are upset about, or their opinions, don't hold any weight with me.

It was brought to my attention that someone left a comment card basically written in caps and real big. The comment was, "the drums are too loud". This person obviously didn't "get it". Was it loud? Possibly, depends on where you sit and your ear's definition of loud. I thought it was great. Not because of the volume but because I "get it".

Praise the Lord for students who love to worship him. The card would have accomplished more for the kingdom if it read, "It's obvious those students love worshipping God with the talents and skills He has given them."

In a time in the church where students are walking away from the church upon graduation it is great to see students connecting to the church through ministry, serving. Students who sit on the sideline are more likely to fade away after graduation or even when they get their drivers license. Ministry, serving God, is like a glue. A glue that Christian parents need to teach their kids by example.

So when we want to comment perhaps we should step back and look at the bigger picture make a comment that will further the kingdom rather than criticize it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Life is Busy

It feels like I have been on a fast rocket ride for the past few weeks. My "part time" job with Tubbs has taken off. The staff at NHC decided, with the elders approval, to take on part time jobs to help with the budget during this recession.

Along with Tubbs is my real job. We have recently moved Contagious to the beach for the summer. We love having youth group at the largest church swimming pool in the world. This summer we have Jacob, our summer intern from LU, on the teaming helping us minister to students. Jacob and I will be sharing the Contagious Bible study writing and teaching this summer. I hope this is a great learning experience for him.

We have Impact Outer Banks, a week long mission project, with several churches involved in a little more than a week from now. A few weeks after Impact is Student Life Camp. So lots of planning and work in a part time setting. I'm getting a taste of what the bi-vocational youth pastor goes through.

Time is flying! This summer my oldest turns 6!! Our twins are growing and are fully mobile which keeps momma and I hoppin. They are such a blast and love their big brother.

Learning to balance and prioritize all this is good for me. I look forward to the learning experience this summer. Have you noticed lately that life is busy?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sticking Around

There is the old statistic that youth pastors don't stick around for longer than 18 months. I think that statistic is pretty much shot and not sure of the new one but I know it is much longer. Some youth pastors still don't stick around for very long at one church. Sometimes due to the church, some churches like to chew up and spit out their staff, often that's due to a very small (around 7) amount of disgruntled and power hungry members. Sometimes youth pastors don't stick around because they jumped in with both feet without first checking the water. Probably should have asked the question, "Is this church a fit for me and God's will for me?" I have heard some quit because of the finances, not getting paid enough, yet they knew the pay package before signing on. (I have heard of a few who took the job without even asking about the pay. Crazy! You have to know what it takes to support your family). Some churches go through youth pastors like a kid goes through candy in a Pez dispenser. Some youth pastors go through churches like a kids goes through candy in a Pez dispenser.

One youth pastor friend told me "I think my calling is to start youth ministry and then leave to start another one." Problem was he didn't stay long enough to build a healthy structure for the ministry to keep ticking along after he left. It's easy to get addicted to the honeymoon period.

It's hard as a youth pastor to follow a youth pastor who only stuck it out for a couple of years. Just about the time the students start to click and open up and build that relationship the bond is cut off.

How long should a youth pastor stay at a church? As long as God wants him to stay.

This weekend I get to watch another batch of seniors graduate. For some of them I have been there only youth pastor, some have even had the same youth ministry team members serving them their entire middle and high school career.

While I know that God does move us sometimes to where he wants us I'm not sure that it is God's will for us to move every 18 months, 2 years, 4 or even 5 years. I know it's different in each case but I think there is something to be said for consistency and familiarity. I'm not the best youth pastor, I still have much to learn in working with students and their parents. But I feel like sticking around and watching kids go through middle then high school and then watch them graduate is a great thing in youth ministry. They won't remember the Bible studies but will remember the relationships with their youth ministry team.

How long will I be at Nags Head Church? I hope and pray until I retire. How long will I be a youth pastor? As long as I'm effective and can lead. I hope I get to see next fall's batch of 6th graders walk across the platform on their graduation day from high school. I'll be 50!! That's stinking old.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When a Leader Falls

Over the past several years the marriages of several couples who I looked up to and respected have come to an end. I know of only two who saved their marriages by offering forgiveness, grace and mercy. I have also experienced some of the leaders I looked up to, some I knew personally, make huge mistakes (sins), big enough to pull them out of their leadership roles.

Today I have a heavy heart and am burdened. I'm tired of watching my friends drop like flies. I'm sick of the enemies victory in their marriages and their lives. I needed some good reminders so I dug up an article I wrote a few years ago. If you have a heavy heart perhaps you will find some good reminders here:

When a Leader Falls

It seems more and more we here of spiritual leaders falling morally. In the time we live in news travels fast. Maybe there aren’t more leaders falling, maybe we hear about it because we live in the “information age”.

Devastation, heart break, disappointment, sorrow, grieving, disillusioned, faith shaking, these are some of the emotions and feelings we may experience when someone we look up to as a spiritual leader falls morally. How do we respond to these situations? What do we do? How do we treat the leader who has fallen? What do we do with what he or she has taught us? How do we filter through the feelings and emotions?

The first thing we must do is go to God’s Word. The Bible has to be the foundation for every situation we face in life. His Word is where our roots should run deep. What does the Bible have to say?

• Everyone sins
Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
As believers we must remember that every one of us has sinned. Not only have we sinned in the past we will also sin again. There was only one who lived a perfect life and He was the Son of God. The danger we fall into as Christians is that we often put spiritual leaders we look up to on a pedestal; we almost take their humanness away from them. Spiritual leaders, no matter how “great” they may be, still sin. So the fact that a leader sins shouldn’t shock us, it should grieve us just as we should be grieved when we sin.

• Sin traps and destroys
Ephesians 4:27
and do not give the devil a foothold.

Being tempted is not a sin but giving into the temptation is. When a believer gives into temptation he has opened the door for Satan to get a grip on an area in his life. No Christian is above this taking place in his life. That is why it is so important that we guard our hearts, minds and lives. Believers are human and humans are tempted and sadly, humans sin. Sin can trap a believer; certain sins can easily become habitual sins in the life of a believer.

I Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour

The devil isn’t prowling around looking to destroy the lives of unbelievers; he already has them in his grip. Satan’s goal is to destroy our lives. In doing so he destroys our testimonies and the impact we can have on others. Public sin has a far ranging impact and affect on those around us.

As we put spiritual leaders up on a pedestal, we forget that they are human just like us. We forget that Satan is out to get a foothold in their lives and destroy them as well. They are not super heroes that are not influenced by the devil’s tempting. They can be trapped and destroyed just as easily as any believer. If the devil tempted Jesus Christ, the Son of God, why wouldn’t he tempt spiritual leaders today?

Psalms 7:15
He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made.

• Confession and Repentance are vital to restoration
I John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Our prayer should be that when a spiritual leader sins that the leader would go to God first and confess his sin and repent. To confess is to agree with God that sin committed is indeed a sin. To repent is to turn away from the sin. If the sin was one that is made public or becomes known publicly he should also confess to his brothers and sisters in the Lord, to openly confess. This open confession is evidence that indeed the leader has come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and can help heal any wounds caused by the sin. No Christian can be in a right relationship with God unless there has been confession and repentance.

2 Corinthians 7:9
yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.

• God’s Word is still God’s Word

“If this spiritual leader that I looked up to falls morally how can I believe anything that the leader has taught me?”
It boils down to this: Even though the leader may have messed up, God’s Word is still God’s Word. God’s Word is unchanging. The leader’s message is validated by whether or not it comes from the Bible. If the message is from God’s Word then truth is taught. If God can speak through a donkey He can certainly deliver His message through an imperfect leader.

Isaiah 55:11
so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Numbers 22:29
Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

Psalms 33:4
For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.

• Focus on Christ not on Man
As Christians we are disciples, followers of Christ. As children we played the game “follow the leader”. In this game you needed to keep your focus on the leader and not on the person in front of you. Your goal was to copy the leader. As followers of Christ, He is our leader, the one on whom we should put our focus. Jesus Christ will never let us down. It is impossible for Jesus to fail. When we focus on man we will be constantly let down because man is imperfect. We look up to spiritual leaders but ultimately we need to focus more on Christ than the spiritual leader. Spiritual leaders who are following Christ would tell you to not focus on them but to focus on Christ.

Most Christians have had a spiritual leader who has made a significant impact or influence on their life. This impact or influence is the result of God’s work - God’s Word, using the leader. When a leader falls it doesn’t negate or cancel out the commitment or decision made in the Christian’s life. The commitment was made with God and not with the leader.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Challenging Ideas Part 1

Last Friday I attended the Whiteboards with the staff from NHC. The whole purpose was to get some fresh and challenging ideas from church leaders. Here are some of the things that I wrote down from the different speakers:

How to make sure that what we do matters - Jonathon Falwell
I Peter 5 - Pride and Grace
>Be Who You Are. Don't be busy trying to wear someone else's armor (reference to David an Goliath) Know who you are and accept who you are and be who you are.
>Be What You Are. As a minister of grace you cannot fail. God never calls you to do something that he doesn't equip you to be successful.
>Pride and grace can never co-exist.
>Pride and organizational ministry will stifle your ministry.
> I Peter 5:10. It's going to be tough.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Using Facebook Event to Promote "The F Word" series

I often use the events to promote events with the students. This week I set up an event for The F Word series we are launching Sunday. We already have a couple guys who have RSVP'd that they are attending the event who don't come to Contagious. Hopefully our students will take advantage of the "invite" feature to invite their friends to youth group. It is funny looking at my "home" page and seeing students status updates includeing "attending The F Word". Hopefully this draws some attention.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Interesting Article on Facebook Security

Sunday night I begin our Facebook series "The F Word".

Interesting article here about the security of Facebook.  Parent you may want to take a look.  Another great reason to monitor your child's activity on Facebook.  Know their password and login info?  You need to.  Know if their FB friends are real or not?  You need to take a look.

Is the Addyouthpastor anti-Facebook?  Absolutely not, I use it every day.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Facebook Series

This Sunday we launch a series about Facebook. I'm excited about this series for a few reasons. I've noticed many of our "church" kids using language on Facebook that they wouldn't dare use at church. I'm hoping they discover that we should live everyday as worship to God, the church is not the building but it is the believers who make up the church. Some of the principles we will be teaching in the series: You are Who You Associate With, You are What You Type, You are Under Other's Microscopes.

For the first time the Parent Pod will be joining us. They will sit in on the lesson and then as our students gather in their Pods to discuss the lesson the parents will be gathering together to discuss together as well. I'm hoping this sparks some good conversations and communication in homes.

I'm all the way through lesson 1 and have also written up the Pod and Parent Pod discussion sheets. This week I'll be including in the parent update e-mail some verses for them to read with their kids together as a family and start to get the gears turning before Sunday.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Discipleship - Connection (Part 2)

Find Part 1 Here.

Our connection to God should naturally lead us to be connected with other believers in a local body of believers, the church. (1 Corinthians 12) As we study the New Testament church we find that gathering together with other believers was a priority. (Acts 2) How do we teach our children that this connection to other believers is part of being a follower of Christ?

  • Set the example. Much of our life is intertwined with other believers, our church. Both Mish and I are involved in Connection groups where we meet weekly to connect with others from the church. We are connected through serving with others in the church.
  • The Church is a Priority - In our home church attendance isn't optional. It is a priority in our home just as it was with the early church in Acts 2 (they met daily so perhaps not as much as them). Our children will grow up knowing that involvement with and in the church is not an option but a priority. This is how I grew up. Sleeping in on Sunday morning wasn't a choice in our family growing up. I was forced to go to church my whole life. Guess where I am at every Sunday morning? Why? I was taught connection with the church is vital to spiritual health and growth. I was required to go to church but at the same time taught the reason why I should be involved in the church.
  • Fellowship with other believers is important. Why? We belong to each other. Romans 12:5 There is a connection to each other. Christ died for you and Christ died for me. Our connection came at the high price of redemption. The church is where we find our "belonging". Life as a believer is meant to be lived out in fellowship with other believers. My desire is for my children to realize that their family is more than just their physical family. Their family is much larger because the church is their family as well.
My prayer is that our children, as they grow, will connect first with God through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Second I pray that they will learn by our example and teaching as their parents the importance of being connected with a local body of believers. Not just be church attenders but to live our life in fellowship with the church.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Discipleship - Connecting (part 1)

As a dad one the thing I hope most for is that my children will be connected. No one is meant to live this life alone and to attempt to do so is utter foolishness. We need each other because that is the way God designed us.

First I want to see my children connected to God. How will they learn about the most important connection in life? (John 14:6)

  • Modeled in my life - Do they see in me that a relationship with God is important? I must display through my life that I have an ongoing and growing relationship with him. One of my memories as a child is of my dad sitting down in a chair with his Bible and a legal pad reading God's Word and taking notes. He showed me that his relationship with God was serious to him. This is teaching by example.
  • Placed in the right environment - I think that hauling our three young'uns to church every Sunday morning is the beginning of teaching them the importance of this relationship. During the week we are planting lessons about God in their lives. Sunday at Kids' Zone what they are learning is being watered and fertilized to help them grow in God. There is a reinforcement there at church in what they are learning at home. This is a priority in our family. Disciple your kids at home, don't be dependent on the church to do this for you.
  • Focusing their minds - each night when our three children are prayed with before we go to bed. Not the scary prayer "Now I lay me down to sleep . . . " type of prayer (scary? Yes! "If I should die before I wake". In my mind I hear it in the voice of Vincent Price) I pray with my oldest son that God would grow him to know God and to live for God above all else. The prayer with the baby twins is shorter but includes God's protection and direction in their lives. They are learning at 15 months old the importance of talking to God and that communication is vital in connection. They don't grasp the concept but they are learning. My children will grow up with this as a part of normal every day life effecting their life now and in the future.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Discipleship of Our Kids

Deuteronomy 6 is clear that the discipleship of our children is our responsibility as parents. So over the next few weeks I'm going to blog about discipleship. I believe that to be spiritually healthy I must be spiritually balanced. Same goes with my children as I "train them up". So much of my posting will be from a dad's point of view. Some of the areas of discipleship that I will post about are:

  • Sharing faith
  • Spiritual disciplines
  • Serving the body of Christ
  • Fellowship with the church
  • Worshipping God in life

Questions I will look at:
  • Do I teach by my example?
  • What is our family's priority?
  • What does the Bible teach about fellowship?
  • What effect will this have on my grandchildren?
We all teach by our example that is why how we out live life is so important.
My family has priorities. What are they? Have I listed them out? How we spend our time and money as a family is a good reflection of our priorities. If we are going to teach our kids to follow Christ then the Bible is the best place to start. How we parent and disciple our own children will have a direct effect on how they disciple and parent their children. So what we do today, as a parent, has an impact on our family for generations to come. No pressure there, huh?

I will wrap up each post by stepping out of the role of dad and putting on the hat of youth pastor and weighing in as a fellow youth leader in the trenches.

Hopefully this will be a helpful little journey for some, mainly me.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Youth Group Now Owns Property in Nepal

Not really! BUT ten of our students rocked in rocking chairs last Friday night from 7pm till 7am to raise money to help an orphanage in Nepal that Tammy Stump, partner at NHC, is helping to build. She is literally going to make the bricks to build the buildings as well as purchase the land and all involved to help these children.

We survived the rock-a-thon by drinking slushies all night, mango/orange spiked with Red Bull. I had at least 15!!

I'm stoked that these 10 students could see how they could do mission work without leaving home or even their rocking chair. The children who live in this orphanage are about to experience a move to a much better setting, out of the big city and to a small village. Our ten students got some hands on mission experience. I pray that the rock-a-thon was more than just a fun night for them and a glimpse at the difference that they can make in another human's life.

Here is a pic of the land!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Last Night at Contagious

We wrapped up our series on "All Our Belongings". Hopefully some of the students have been inspired to reach out to others as Christ did. We belong to God, we belong to each other, others are searching for where they belong. Let's help them find their belonging.

We had a great group of students last night. It may have been the first time in a few months that we did not have any guests. That was a bit weird and a little unnerving for me. The tendency I have seen in the flow of youth ministry is that in the spring when things start to warm up and spring sports kick in we see a slight drop in participation from week to week.

Indoor corn hole is quickly becoming the youth group's new favorite. We have now met for Hang Time all together in the auditorium for 3 weeks. I like the change and from informal surveys of students they like it as well.

Here is where we are headed this spring. We will be doing 3 weeks of study and discussion based on the Louie Giglio passion talk series, The Heart of Passion. I'm looking forward to integrating Louie's video messages into our youth group study time.

Following the Heart of Passion series we are going to do a 3 week series based on Facebook. Lately I've seen some interesting updates on Facebook pages as well as groups that are being joined. Nathan, our worship leader, and I were talking about this last week and he had the brilliant idea of doing some teaching about Facebook. It's still formulating in my head and I hope to come up with some great discussion questions for the Pods as well as some discipleship devo stuffs for parents to do with their teen. So far the direction I think we are going is:
  • You Are Who You Associate With (friendships and witness)
  • What You Type is No Different from What You Say (out of the heart the mouth speaks)
  • You're Not Anonymous (your testimony to others; FB can be a window to who you really are)
As the Facebook lessons formulate I'll post some of the graphics and outlines.

After Facebook series is my favorite time of the year and that is Contagious on the beach. We will meet all summer on the beach for youth group as we have done the past several years. I love meeting at the beach. Lots of fun with the students, great hot dogs, volleyball, Bible study and of course the Parent Pod in their beach chairs.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Gift from our Government

The US Census Rep for faith based organizations stopped by the office today bearing gifts. A backpack of little goodies for pastors and church leaders. Nathan and I took the opportunity to pose with our favorite gifts from the goody bag.
So I say to you, "Esta en nuestras manos!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Communicating with Parents

We launched our new and improved weekly update for parents today. It shot out to the www on it's own automatically at 11am. I look forward to using this new tool. Hopefully the new layout will help communicate what is going on. The best part is the e-mail can be forwarded to other parents who can sign up to receive the update each week. Hopefully this will be used as a tool to reach parents who are seeking answers and also looking for something positive and life impacting for their teen.

You can check out the web version here

For a few weeks now, in our old regular e-mail format, I have been asking parents to get involved in the Rock-a-thon this Friday night without any response. Today I got several responses. Could it be the new layout? I like to think so.

Last Night at Contagious

So we have started something new. Last night for the second week in a row we did both Hang Time and our Bible study time all in the auditorium. We moved the chairs out. Set up the cornhole and ping pong as well as many tables with games for Hang Time. It is fun all being in the same room together for Hang Time instead of spread out through the lobby and balcony. (hopefully a taste of what our new youth room will be like)

Our lesson was all about not being fake with God. Makes no sense. God knows us better than anyone. It's time to be honest with God and strive to keep that connection with him strong so we are producing good fruit.

We had a couple of guests last night. One was a return guest from the week before and the other was the result of a conversation a certain hot dog caterer had with him at lacrosse.

Our youth worship band, Contagious, led worship last night up the road in Kitty Hawk at their youth night for their spring revival services. John Cash from WAVY 10 was the guest preacher. I hear the band did a great job. It was their first outing away from our youth group and church.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spiritual Formation

Ultimately God will hold me, as my kids' daddy, responsible for their spiritual formation. The spiritual instruction they receive has to come from me. It is not their kids' church teachers responsibility or their youth leaders responsibility. God will not hold me accountable as a youth pastor for the spiritual formation of other believer's children. He will hold me accountable as a pastor and my role and duties (equipping the saints for ministry).

The trap that many Christian parents have fallen into is the idea of "I'll take my kid to church and they can learn about God there." The other side of the spectrum is the "I don't want to force this on my kids." Both are unhealthy approaches. So as a parent what is my responsibility? Deuteronomy 6

  • Love God with everything I've got
  • Know God's Word (be a student of the Bible)
  • Be a positive example of God's Word
  • Impress God's Word on my kids' hearts (the idea of sealing their hearts)
  • Talk about God and His Word in our everyday life
  • Center our home on God
The earlier we start this in our children's life the easier it is to carry through life, even into their teen years. At NHC each week our kids go home with a map book that they can work together with their parents on. The wise parent takes advantage of this fantastic tool.

For parents of teens who have not been doing this it will take extra effort to get this going at home. Each week I e-mail parents some scripture and discussion questions for them to read and talk about with their kids during the week. This discipleship devotion ties in with our lesson on Sunday nights at Contagious. If parents do this with their teen they are laying a foundation that gets reinforced at Contagious.

So how are you doing in the spiritual formation in your child's life?

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