Thursday, March 31, 2011

Church Hopping Starts Young

Recently while watching a Simply Youth Ministry podcast, episode 156, the question came up concerning students who attend multiple youth groups and multiple Bible studies at multiple churches. What is the affect of a student who “Just wants more of Jesus and more Bible knowledge”? This podcast got me to doing some thinking.

Church hopping seems to be almost a part of the culture in our community among the adults. Let’s go where the latest and greatest thing is happening, where the band is rocking, where the “spirit” is “present”, where I “feel” the presence, where I can be more of a power broker (of course no one would admit to that one), where the pastor won’t offend me.

I think first their needs to be an understanding of the local church. The church (body of Christ) globally functions through the local church. This is what read in the New Testament in Acts and the letters from Paul. The body of Christ is made up of individual believers connected in a local church. (Acts 2:47)

Here are some of my thoughts:

>Believers who float from church to church as kids learn a habit that is hard to break as an adult

>Students are being invested into, discipled by adult leaders at multiple churches. This might sound good in theory but this means that if one student is getting invested in by several churches that there are students who are not being discipled at all because we get spread thin. We have roughly 182 that our local churches in our community are reaching.

>When we say it’s “about the kingdom” we forget that the kingdom is supposed to grow, not by sharing sheep but by producing new sheep, new followers of Christ. We have roughly 2,416 in our community who need to be reached.

>God places you in the body where he wants you. (1 Corinthians 12:18) If you are supposed to be the “eye” in that church’s youth group you will not be effective trying to the be the “nose” in our church’s youth group.

>The pool for student leaders becomes a very shallow pool. Students with leadership potential become spread too thin. They become mediocre in a few youth groups rather than excelling and leading with excellence in one.

>Discipleship isn’t just about Bible study and knowledge. Discipleship is learning to be like Christ. Jesus Christ was a servant. Students need to learn to roll up their sleeves and serve God the way he has shaped them in the body where he has placed them.

>Students don’t learn a healthy and proper view of spiritual leadership and interferes with accountability of the youth leader. Hebrews 13:17

I recall a letter I received a while back from a youth pastor. He was planning a big youth event and wanted to invite the other youth groups in the region to attend. He went on to explain how God’s hand was on their youth ministry because of their explosive growth that he could not explain. (Does that mean that God’s hand isn’t on ours?) I dismissed the invite because I knew of many students who were attending his church’s youth group gathering were from several other church youth groups. I wouldn’t call borrowing other churches’ students “growth”. (In cattle country that’s called poaching)

When we have events I tell our students to not invite other students who are part of another church. Am I trying to form a clique? Not at all. I’m attempting to teach students their role in reaching their friends who don’t have a relationship with Christ or are not plugged into a local church. There are plenty of students out there waiting for someone to reach out to them with the love of Christ.

I recently heard a youth leader express the opinion that it’s good for students to be involved in multiple youth groups because it keeps them busy and out of trouble. I think what keeps a student out of trouble is a vibrant, growing relationship with the Lord. When we take on the “spiritual cruise director” role of providing activities we fall way short in the area of making disciples.

So what do you do? When a student attends our youth group gathering and I know the students is a member of another church’s youth group I ask them, “Why are you here?” Rarely does this happen because we haven’t created a culture of pulling in students from other youth groups. If there is an issue at the other youth group I encourage them to get it fixed and I also inform the other church’s youth pastor that their student was at our youth group.

Why not teach students the importance of plugging into the church God has placed them in and growing in their faith, their worship, their ministry, and their mission of reaching others? Why do we accept church hopping among students but not among adults?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Last Night At Contagious

“Christianity is a list of rules. What if I don’t want to obey the rules and live life my own way? Am I still a Christian?”

We continue our series, "Letters from the Mailbox". Students submit their question, verses, topic, etc. and then we build a lesson and small group (POD) discussion around their submission.

The above question above was a good one. We had students write down their parent's rules on a piece of paper and then talk about the rules. Discuss the "why's?" of the rules. Then the students, in their PODs, wrote down "Christianity rules". Most of the rules that they came up with were Biblical, some were not, some were but they didn't realize that they were a "rule". I shifted the term from "rules" to "expectations".

We started with the question, "Am I still a Christian?" first. It was obvious that the student who submitted the question thought that salvation was dependent on us and who we are and what we do rather than salvation being totally dependent on God. We took some time and ruled out "works". If I don't live by my parent's rules am I still their child? If I don't live by society's rules am I no longer a human? If (assuming a person has put their faith in Christ) I don't live by God's rules am I no longer his child?

We boiled it down to this:
  • I’m saved because I put my faith in Jesus. (not because I obeyed rules)
  • God has guard rails. (His expectations protect us)

  • So the question isn’t “Am I still a Christian?” The question is, “Do I love God?”
  • The question is not “Am I still a Christian?” The question is, “Am I grateful to Jesus Christ?”
  • Our love for God and gratefulness to Christ will motivate us to live by His expectations.
Scripture we looked at: Ephesians 2:8,9; Luke 15:11-31; Deuteronomy 6:5,6; Jeremiah 17:9; Deuteronomy 8:5.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Last Night At Contagious

The weather was beautiful yesterday on the OBX. The weather had an impact on Contagious in two ways:
1. Some students missing. This happens every spring when the weather turns nice because families are ready to spend time together outdoors enjoying the great weather together which is great because they have "cabin fever", especially after this past winter. This is a part of the natural ebb and blow of youth ministry each year.

2. Hang Time spontaneously moved outdoors! Within minutes cornhole was set up and some intense games were happening. A new game, Polish, was introduced to the students and staff. A few still hung out indoors and played a table game or two and a few played ping pong and Wii.

We added delicious hot dogs, chili and relish to our usual line up of snacks last night. It's great to have a team of folks dedicated to using their desire to serve in the kitchen to impact student's lives. They do more than just hand out snacks. Each students has a contact with yet another caring adult from NHC. This has a great influence on their lives and connection to the church.

Last night we opened another letter from the "mailbox". The letter last night was part B from last week. The question was, "Why did God make me the way I am?".

We started off in our PODS and students discussed
John 9:1-39 together with their POD leaders (more contact with more caring adults in their church) guiding them through some discussion questions.

We took a look at this video.
Sarah struggled with self hate, she didn't like who she was.

We then looked at Psalm 139:13,14 some great verses about God's creativity in each one of his masterpiece art works (us).
>God makes no mistakes.
God is perfect so if someone assumes they must be a mistake they are saying, "God made a mistake when he made me." That would mean that God is not perfect and if God is not perfect then he would not be God.

>God made you unique.
No two people have the same fingerprints, we are that unique. Our personality, our skills, who we are as a person is unique. Because we are unique we don't have to compare ourselves to others. When we start playing the comparison game we always lose.

>God is in control.
Not only is God the master artist in creating you he is also sovereign, he is in control. Some who wrestle with self hate often struggle with the fact that they can't control their circumstances, they can't control other's expectations. The great thing about realizing and accepting that God is in control is the freedom to relax in that fact. I don't have to be "in control" of everything in my life. God is in control, I need to trust him.

I'm thinking we are going to continue on this question/theme this coming Sunday night at Contagious. If a student can grasp in their teenage years that God is in control just imagine the difference that would make in their life in the future.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Last Night At Contagious

Last night at Contagious we opened another "Letter from the Mailbox" and answered this question: "Why did God put me in the situation I'm in?"

1. God loves you and wants his best for you.

John 3:16, John 10:10, Romans 12:12

2. Three factors to consider about your situation:

>Others do wrong. Sometimes our situation is the result of someone else's sin. This is the result of living in a fallen world.

>I do wrong. Sometimes our situation is the result of our own sin.

>God knows best. Jeremiah 29:11

3. You can rise above the situation with Christ and through Christ

Romans 8:28

Students followed up the lesson with their POD leaders. Each POD divided in half and did 2 case studies and then shared the studies together. The first study was Joseph. Joseph was sold into slavery and was put into a bad situation as the result of being daddy's favorite, the jealousy of his brothers and his own bragging about his dreams. But ultimately Joseph rose above his situation and was used by God to save his family. The second study was on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Mary was put into a situation by God. She used her situation to magnify God.

Of course as usual the lesson was proceeded by lot of fun and games and hanging out together during Hang Time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scheduling Your Team

I'm not known for having the best memory. It is important as a youth pastor to know who are your team will be at your youth group gathering so you are prepared.

Our system used to be "tell Andy" if you aren't going to be there. I would then promptly forget.

Our system changed to "give Andy a written note" if you aren't going to be there. I would promptly lose the note and forget.

Our system changed to "send Andy and e-mail if you aren't going to be at youth group". I would get the e-mail, read the e-mail, then forget.

Our system is currently The Planning Center an online tool to use to schedule your church's teams for ministry. I love it! I can simply log on and at a glance see who is going to be at Contagious on Sunday night. Team members can block dates. I can schedule out as far in advance as I want. An excellent tool.

We use The Planning Center for several teams in our church and are slowly transitioning all our teams to The Planning Center. With the teams I am responsible for I have around 30 or team members to schedule. The planning center has relieved many of the stresses and frustrations of scheduling. PLUS it helps with my "memory".

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