Monday, June 23, 2014

Mission Monday

Today was our first Mission Monday of the summer.  It was a great success!  The students shopped, made and delivered lunches to our local lifeguards on the beach.

There are two purposes to this event:
#1 is to share the love of Jesus Christ with each lifeguard in a practical way.  Inside the lunch bag was a note card from our youth group that read, "Lunch is on us!  We appreciate what you do."  We also included John 3:16 on the card.

#2 I wanted to use this event to start getting some of our students prepared for our 2015 mission trip.  I want students with leadership abilities to step up to the plate.  What better way to figure out who has those abilities than to give them a task and let them figure out how to accomplish the task.

We went to the grocery store.  I told the students how many we were feeding.  I also let them know what should be included in the bag.  I divided them into teams and let each team get something different for the lunch.  Including figuring up how many pounds of lunch meat to purchase at the deli.  They did a great job shopping.

Next we went back to the church and put all the groceries on the counter and I said, "figure out how you want to work together to assemble the sandwiches, bag them and pack the bags."  I then walked out and left them to do the job without checking on them or telling them what to do.  I could hear the leaders stepping up.

Next we loaded the sack lunches and drinks into the church van and headed out to hit each beach access that had lifeguards.  The students took turns in teams delivering the lunches and letting the lifeguards know who we were and to enjoy their free lunch.

Each lunch had either a ham or turkey sandwich, a salty chip type snack, a cookie snack, a Gatorade and bottle of ice water.  The lifeguards were very happy to have lunch delivered to them.  The students did a great job.  We wrapped it up by eating our lunch on the beach and swimming for a couple of hours.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Coach's Frustration

I can imagine that there are times that an athletic coach gets frustrated with a player.  Not the player who is really not that good but the player who has tremendous potential but would rather be lazy and sit the bench, drop the team or not even show up to the game.  I’m not an athletic coach but I know it would drive me nuts if say I had a player with the ability of the Michael Jordan but really didn’t care about the team or the game.

As ministry leaders we run into this scenario as well.  Someone on our ministry team who has the ability, the skills, to be a phenomenal minister yet they approach serving others and serving our Lord with a lackadaisical attitude.  The potential is there and perhaps at one time they were hitting home runs in serving but now they are about as exciting and active as a bowl of cottage cheese.  Perhaps they got burnt, burned out, overused, misused, abused, or maybe, which is often the case, they have allowed the busyness of life to become their priority rather than serving and making an impact on the lives of other believers.

Frustrating!  What can we do?  After all, they are volunteers.  If you let this frustration remain you will soon finding it consuming your thoughts and zapping the joy out of your ministry.

Keeping this in mind (and from experience of the frustration) I have a few thoughts:

Communicate.  Approach the team member, one on one, maybe over coffee and have the conversation.  Express your frustration.  Share your view of their incredible potential.  Allow them to share their heart as well.

Call for a time out.  Let the team member have a break, a sabbatical if you will, from the team.  Give them a set amount of time, pick a date to get back together and find out where their passion has gone and if they are ready to fully commit to the team.

Change your focus.  If you have communicated and made efforts to get the person more involved and encouraged them to serve the Lord with all their heart, mind and strength then it time to focus elsewhere.  Take the time and energy and focus it on the team members who are working hard and striving to give God their best in ministry.

Create space.  Make sure you are building into your daily schedule time to spend praying for the team members and their needs.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

25th Wedding Anniversary

When I look back at my wedding picture I always think to myself, or say out loud, "Man, we were just kids."

I'm so thankful to God that 25 years ago today that Misha said, "I do".  God has taught me much in those 25 years.  We, like everyone, have had ups and downs, times of joy and times of sorrow, times of happiness and times of grieving.  The awesome part of all of that, even the bad times, is that I didn't go through life alone.  

God has blessed me with a godly wife.  She is an example to me.  Daily I see her study her Bible and spend time with God.  She loves to serve Christ and his church as she leads a ladies Connection group and serves at our check in kiosk on Sunday mornings.  Even as a busy mom and homeschooling our kids she is actively involved in ministry.  She doesn't use the busyness of life as an excuse.  I find that very attractive.

Not only is Misha and awesome wife but she is an incredible mom.  She loves our children.  You can see it as she interacts with them.  It's a beautiful thing to witness.

On top of that I married way above my league.  Misha is a beautiful woman not just on the outside but also on the inside.  And I like it!  I like it a lot!!

 So we celebrate this week with a little trip, some fun time together.  No kids on this trip, just the two of us.  No blog posts (except this one), no email, no phone, no work, just me and my beautiful bride of 25 years.  Now on to the next 25!!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Jail. I don't like it.

Student ministry.  I love lots of things about student ministry.  I love camps, retreats, weekly youth group, sitting at McD's with a group of students, high fiving and fist bumping students in the lobby at church on Sunday morning, writing messages and small group discussion, whooping them in foosball, laser tag, mini golf, bowling, parties, the list could go on and on.

This is the part of youth ministry I don't like.  I don't like going to jail.  It's not something I look forward to for a few reasons:
A.  I feel like I need to shower when I leave (I keep hand sanitizer in the jeep)
B.  It's not in my comfort zone
C.  It means a teenager has made some very poor life choices.

What I have learned in my minimal amount of jail ministry experience:

1.  The inmate (teenager) sitting across the table from you will say whatever they think you want to hear.

2.  Jailhouse conversions or commitments often don't go beyond the cell walls when they walk away from jail.  (with the inmates I have visited)

3.  They often blame everyone else or circumstances "beyond their control".

My new jail house ministry approach:  (I formulated this as I waited in the waiting room of our detention center on Thursday)

1.  I don't want to know why you are in here or who's fault it is that you are in this place.

2.  I don't want to know how much you don't like it in here.  It's jail!  You aren't supposed to like it.

3.  I want to know this:  Have you ever put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior?

4.  I share about grace and mercy and God changing lives.

5.  I ask the inmate to think hard and long, since they have time on their hands, about what it would mean in your life if God radially changed your heart and life.

6.  I pray and walk away.  (going to follow up in about a week)

So I'll be in prayer during this next week and a half for this student.  Praying this student comes to know Christ and experience new life.  Interesting that as I sat in the waiting room I saw another 16 year old brought in with handcuffs on by their school resource officer.  Praying for that kid too.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Monday, June 9, 2014

Longevity Celebrated

Last night our youth ministry team met at a local Mexican restaurant to eat dinner together following our youth group gathering.  It was a “dinner meeting” but actually we secretly planned this to celebrate a win.  One of our teammates (we will just call her “Marie”) has served on the YM team for ten plus years.  We saw that as an opportunity to thank her for her ministry and to celebrate her longevity on the team.

  Marie is more of a quiet behind the scenes team member but Marie has faithfully sat down with a group of middle school girls each week for all those years and invested into those girls’ lives.  MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS!!!  Crowns in heaven for Marie.  We presented Marie with a certificate of awesomeness  and we dined and laughed together as a team.

Day after thoughts:

  • Longevity is increased as we celebrate milestones in team members’ lives.  It only helps encourage your team members and inspires everyone on the team.
  • Longevity benefits the volunteer.  They know what to expect and know their ministry inside and out.
  • Longevity benefits the students.  Some churches go through youth pastors like a kid goes through candy in a Pez dispenser.  Having long term youth volunteers is beneficial to the students.  Especially when their leadership changes every few years.
  • Longevity is a benefit to parents.  Parents can have some peace knowing that the youth leader investing into their kid’s life will be their through their journey in middle and high school.
  • Longevity benefits the youth pastor.  I know Marie and Marie knows me.  She knows how I click.  I know she likes her coffee black.  When we serve together for a long time we function better as a team.  Teams that function better together see more success in ministry.
  • Longevity is no accident.  I’m sure team members who have served for a couple of years experience that burn out feeling, disappointments, frustration with leadership, but the ones who stick it out through the rough patches experience the joy that using your SHAPE to serve Christ’s church brings.  The leader who has as a goal to keep volunteers on the team as long as humanly possible has to have a strategy or plan in place.  Days off for the volunteers, meet together, training, clear expectations, clear vision, "job" description, celebrating together, having fun together, all of these fit well into a strategy.

Of course none of this means anything if it’s “MY” youth ministry.  Yes their needs to be ownership but it needs to be team ownership and not one youth pastor’s or one volunteer’s youth ministry.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Humbled and Sort of Laughing to Myself

I'm always amazed when I hear an apologist speak.  They know so many facts and so much information.  My parking garage (brain) only has so many spaces and to be honest I think it's pretty full and when one car moves out another quickly moves in it's place.  Remembering facts and information like the "pros" isn't something I have been able to attain.  I'm OK with that because I'm not wired that way.

My guitar playing friend, Alex McFarland, asked me to lead a break out session for youth leaders on building a youth ministry team.  I was humbled he would invite me to be a break out leader at TNG.  In my mind I saw myself tucked away in some back classroom with a dozen adults talking youth ministry.   A privilege and an honor to get to do so.

I'm stoked to get to hear some of these fine Christians speak, people I look up to, some I have looked up to since my childhood.  Joni Eareckson Tada!  Come on!! She's a hero of the faith for me, what an impact she has made.  Josh and Sean McDowell!  Youth ministry gurus!  Dr. Ben Carson!!  Brilliant!!  David Nasser!  I love to hear him preach.  And the list could go on and on.

Needless to say when I went to the web site to check out who I was going to get to hear speak I was first of all humbled to see my face on the same page.  To be honest I laughed out loud because I'm just a youth dude doing what I do.  I'm no apologetic genius.  I'm no expert.  I'm not a pediatric brain surgeon with great political ideas.  I'm just Andy.  So I'm looking forward to learning at this event and I'm looking forward to spending time with other youth leaders.  (and I hope I get to meet a few of the scheduled speakers)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mission Trip

Last night I introduced our 2015 mission trip to a group of students, their parents and some of our YM Team members. 

To my knowledge this will be our church's youth ministry's first mission trip to another country.  For years I have wanted to take a group of kids to another country where they could experience ministering in a  different culture and poverty.  So moving into my 14th year at NHC I  felt like I had the adult support needed as well as a group of kids that I felt comfortable taking to foreign soil.

I have never planned a mission trip to another country so I didn't just want to dive in and attempt this without any guidance or assistance or clue as to what to do.  I went to two resources:  Download Youth Ministry and Leader Treks.  At DYM I downloaded a resource that is a complete mission trip planning pack with tools, forms, etc.  Why reinvent the wheel?  What a great resource!

I then made the call to my new friend Dan at LeaderTreks and Dan talked me through some training resources as well  as some field journals and post trip journals that our team will work through together. 

Last night I revealed the trip.  I had not told parents or students where we were going.  I wanted people to attend the informational meeting who just wanted to go do missions even if they didn't know where they would be going.  We had a great turn out.

We will be taking a group of student and adults to the island of Eleuthera next spring.  While there we will serve at our host's, Camp Bahamas, in the morning doing some physical labor and projects there.
In the afternoons we will venture out into a Hatian community, the poorest on the island and minister to them.  I'm really looking forward to this experience with our students and adults.

Students and adults who attended the meeting now have a couple of months to pray about the trip and to turn in their team application if they know God wants them to do this.   I will pick the adult team and then the adult team will then sit down and go through the student's apps and decide on the team.

We will have a meeting each month (August through March) to train and go over the logistics.  We have a timeline with deadlines on steps including passports, medical releases, finances, etc.

Our prayer is that God will use this trip to help us grow in our faith and dependance on Him and help students to discover how they can be on mission not just overseas but in their own community and hopefully build up some student leadership.

New Site is up and Running

My new web site which now hosts my blog posts is up and fully functional. You can check it out at . There is also a ...