Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Taming the Raptors

This meme is going around Facebook.  It is a little funny, especially if you work with middle school boys.  BUT if this is you then you need help . . . . fast. 

Volunteers - Even in 2015 we still have youth ministers trying to go at it alone.  We cannot effectively minister to students alone, even if our youth group consists of 3 students, we need help and students need more than one adult investing into their lives at church. 

Atmosphere - Does your youth group have rules?  Is it a free for all?  We have "things we agree on" like "no wrestling", "no jumping off furniture", "no making out", etc.  Is the environment you've created amp students up beyond excitement and into the out of control zone.  Monster spiked Kool Aid is probably not such a great idea right before youth group.

Set the Example - I have been to the youth groups where the students all sit in the chairs in front of the youth pastor and the volunteers all line up against the back and side walls like school dance chaperones.  Our team members need to sit in and amongst the students.  This gives opportunity for the adults to set the example and teach students what worship looks like.  This also places students close by which tends to help in crowd control.

The Talk - If the volunteers are doing their job the youth pastor shouldn't have to call a student down during the message.  If a student is a distraction and it seems to happen frequently with him then it is probably time to sit down together and have a chat and explain the importance of what is going on in youth worship and the goal to reach lost students and how the student can help those around them to hear about Christ's love.

Monday, December 21, 2015

The Sabbatical Post

I returned to work on December 1st after a 3 month sabbatical.  I'm so thankful that our church sees the value of allowing pastoral staff (our elders and volunteers can take sabbaticals also) take a sabbatical.  You can read our church's policy in this post.  I wondered this during my sabbatical:  if more churches gave staff sabbaticals would more pastoral staff last longer than a few years at a church?  Some churches go through pastoral staff like a kid goes through candy in a PEZ dispenser.

I decided I would do a post sabbatical post.  Here it goes.  There is no way anyone would read all my thoughts from sabbatical because it would take like forever.

The Detox.
I noticed it took me about three weeks before I quit thinking about Nags Head Church.  For the first week I thought of the church everyday.  The second week it was more sporadic and by the end of week 3 it was out of my mind for the most part.  When you work at the church and for the church and in the church the church is on your mind constantly throughout the day.  You can't turn it off when you walk out of the office at 5:17 in the evening.   So if your church considers sabbaticals it has to be longer than 3 weeks so the sabbaticaling person can have a few weeks of mental detachment.

The Family.
Most important to me on my sabbatical was to spend time with my family.  I took over all cooking duties during the three months.  Most days I took care of all three meals.  I even did some big man-sized shopping runs where you buy like 3 weeks of groceries in one shot so you don't have to keep going back to the store.  And I bought in bulk, 4 of the giant sized cans of frijoles refritos because we eat them at least once a week in our home.  The gianormous box of Cheerios that would last the normal human  a month and it maybe lasts a week in our home because of the Jethro sized bowls my kids eat. 

We home school, OR I should say my wife home schools our kids.  I'm not much involved because I'm usually at work.  During the three months I was able to play the role of principal.  I even helped some with their school work.  I discovered that teaching a kid to read is not in my skill set.  I don't have the patience for it. 

I did some honey-do's.  As with most jobs you don't have time to get some things done around the house and we are the type that like to try to fix things before we call in the pros.  So I caught up on a few of those.  I still ran out of time to complete what I hoped we could do.

We traveled.  We took a ten day vacation to the mountains and to Nashville.  When you live at the beach you like to go to the mountains on vacation.  We got to stay in the smokey mountains at the peak of leaf changing season.  We rode a "it's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" train on the great smoky mountains railroad.  Lots of fun.  We hit Nashville for one day and night for my niece's wedding and that was fun getting all dressed up and spending time with family.  We relaxed a whole lot on porches of log cabins drinking coffee.  Great family time.

We had plans for a family mission trip but our septic drainfield had to be replaced so we just flushed that money down the drain.

When you work as a youth pastor you spend a lot of time with other people's kids and investing into other people's kids.  The three months allowed me to invest into my own kids and spend lots of time with them.  They were probably ready for me to go back to work.  :)  I figured it up last year and I have spent almost a year and a half away from home in my ministry years.

For me, personally, spending time with my family was huge.  I loved t!

The Sleep
After a couple of weeks I realized I wasn't tired.  I would go to bed, get a great night's sleep and wake up whenever I woke up, no alarms.  I think the latest I slept in was 9 and that seems late to me now but not compared to my college days of sleeping till 1 or 2 in the afternoon.  When I was at work I found that after dinner I hit the wall.  I was ready to go to bed by 6:30pm.  During the sabbatical I never had the feeling of exhaustion.  This may have been the most beneficial part of the sabbatical physically.  No exhaustion!!

The Weight
I lost 12 pounds.  Some would say "hooray" but I have much more to lose to be at a healthy weight.  On sabbatical I ate much better at home.  I didn't eat two big meals a day like often do when I'm at the office and go out for lunch.  This was good and it saved me some money.

The Word
My usual habit, I'm not perfect and miss days, is to read the Bible in the morning after I wake up and make a cup of coffee.  Because I wasn't in a rush to get to the office I seemed to get more out of my reading time.  I also found myself reading more and longer.  I also spent time reading articles and blog posts that I found spiritually beneficial.  When I'm at the office I read the Bible a lot but that's because I'm prepping a message or researching something.  There is a difference in reading for your own growth and reading to put together a message.

I was able to do some thinking about our student ministry, about our ministry teams, about people who don't serve in their church.  I found myself feeling like I was missing out on Sunday morning at church because I wasn't serving in some way and I wondered how church members can do that week after week?  My conclusion is that serving isn't part of the fabric of their life and they are missing out on the joy that serving others and Christ brings.

I thought about our discipling of our students in our ministry.  This caused me to do some reading, I picked up Duffy Robbins book, Building a youth ministry that builds disciples. Lots of good material in this book.  I thought about taking some things I learned and combining them with our curriculum and resources on discipleship from LeaderTreks and putting them into practice in our student ministry.

The Return
While I figured out on sabbatical that I'll be able to handle retirement just fine I found myself near the end ready to get back to work.  You know that feeling of excitement when you start a new job?  That's the feeling I had.  I was looking forward to work again and I was refreshed and ready to go.  The sabbatical gave me a chance to break away from everything to do with work and then return with a fresh perspective.

The Comments
As with anything ministry related you will run into people who have only negative things to say.  I didn't experience this at all as far as my sabbatical was concerned.  From our church members I only received encouragement and many said they were glad I was able to take this time to be refreshed.  I talked with several other people who serve in ministry as a pastor or youth pastor and the biggest comment from them was, "I wish my church did this.  I could use a time to refresh and refuel."

The Team
Our volunteer student ministry team held it all together.  Several of them took turns teaching.  Everyone jumped in to make sure this time while I was gone was a successful time.  Without the team that we have I'm not sure we could have pulled the sabbatical break off.  I love our student ministry team!

The Next Sabbatical
My oldest son will be 18!  Our twins will be 13!  That's hard to imagine.  I already know what I would like to do during that time but I'll wait to share that until 2021.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Great Blog Post about Games

Following up on my 3 posts about family church vs. student ministry this is a good blog post.  Often the anti-student ministry crowd points to "just play games" at youth group as one of their defenses for their belief that student ministry is unbiblical and unhealthy. 

About a month and a half ago a young lady, 12 years old, in our community was at an FCA dodgeball event.  At this event she put her faith in Jesus Christ.  The following month she was very active in a local youth group.  Two weeks ago she was riding her bike and was struck by a car.  A terrible tragedy in our community.  Last week she passed away.  She put her faith in Jesus Christ at an event centered around dodgeball!  Don't write off games in student ministry.

Check out this great blog post about games in youth ministry from Dan Colwin.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Family Church VS Student Ministry Pt. 3

If you missed it here is Part 1 and Part 2

 The balance:
The problem with both sides, “family church only” or “we have youth group” is that you can lean unhealthy to one extreme or the other.  The family church has the possibility, if not done right, of boring students away from their faith as well as getting the attitude of “if you aren’t a family church then your church is wrong” attitude.  I’ve even heard some say “you can’t find youth group in the Bible”.  I say you can, Jesus had the first youth group, his disciples.  If you use the New Testament as your model and only what is found in the pages of the NT then your church would meet in homes and not in huge buildings although we do see a mega church in Jerusalem in Acts as thousands were coming to Christ.

Youth groups can go to the other extreme.  Parents not involved or encouraged to disciple their teens.  Pizza parties every week with no time for worship, all games of dodge ball but no scripture being taught.  The youth group where the youth pastor is viewed by the church as more of a “cruise director” and not a shepherd.  The parents who drop their teen off at church and believe it’s the paid professional’s job to teach their teen the Bible.

We strive (we’re not perfect) to find that balance.  Students are an active part of the body of Christ at NHC.  Parents are encouraged to disciple their children.  Students have the opportunity to worship and learn with adults as well as with their peers in two different settings.  We are taking a systematic approach to discipleship, including the  parents, teaching sound doctrine and apologetics as well as incorporating times where we teach topically teaching students how Scripture can greatly impact their daily life.  We may have three events a year that are strictly times to have fun together but there is nothing sinful or Biblically wrong with that.  Our weekly student church is focused on teaching and applying the word.

Sticky Faith and the research that went into it has taught us that students are more likely to stick with their faith if they have had relationships with at least 5 adults in their church.  I’ll be honest, family church isn’t my cup of tea, but if a parent is going to take that route they need to find ways within their church to get their kids involved with other adults who can have an influence on them.  

As a parent I want my kids around other adults in church.  I’m thankful for the adults who invest into the lives of my children every Sunday.  When we have an opportunity to get involved as a family in a church outreach we do because I want my kids serving along side of other adults in the church.  I think back to Operation Backpack at the beginning of the school year, an event where our church supplies people in our community with the school supplies they need.  We turn our building into a distribution center.  My favorite pictures from that event are the ones where my child is serving along side another teen or adult in the church.  When I see my 6 year old daughter serving next to a high school science teacher and they are engaged in conversation that is encouraging to me.  The extreme and the “isolation” occurs when parents think that they and the teaching pastor are the only teaching their child needs.

So I believe that there can be a healthy balance on either side.  Both family church only, and churches with youth groups have to strive to find that healthy balance so that the spiritual impact on their children’s lives is a positive one. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Family Church VS Student Ministry Pt. 2

You can read part 1 HERE

What we do:

Our students in middle and high school attend Sunday morning worship with the adults.   We worship together.  We aren’t “isolating them from the body of Christ”, they are the body of Christ.  We see the advantage of students worshipping in church with the adults because when they go off as adults it would be quite a shock to go from a youth group setting to “big church” cold turkey.

Our students serve the church in ministry on Sunday mornings.  You stroll into NHC on a Sunday morning and you will find middle and high school students serving along side of adults, serving coffee, teaching children, welcoming guests, helping parents check their kids into Cowabunga Cove, on the tech team, and even leading in worship in music.  So they aren’t isolated, they are integrated.  In fact NHC couldn’t accomplish the ministry we do on Sunday mornings without the ministry of the students.

We offer Student Church.  I know that this causes some in the family church movement to cringe.  We come together on Sunday evenings for 2 hours.  We have an icebreaker so students can get to know each other, some would call it “just playing a game” but their is a purpose behind it.  We have a time of singing together in worship.  We have a time of teaching where the Bible is opened and taught by a teacher/preacher.  We also have a time where students can snack and chat or play a game together, we call this fellowship.  Students building relationships with other Christian students and with caring adults is vital to their spiritual growth and accountability.  We also have a small group time where students get together with an adult leader and discuss questions pertaining to what they learned.

Parents aren’t left out of the student ministry in fact many of our youth leaders are parents of teens.  On Sunday nights during Student Church we have a small group of parents that meet together for Bible study and fellowship.  I see this time for parents to get together as super valuable and helpful for them in their parenting and discipling of their teen.  We also provide a weekly email to keep parents in the loop.  In that email there is often material, scripture or topics to help parents continue the discussion from youth group.  Often we point parents to helpful articles and resources online.  We all know that you can take a person to a buffet but you can’t make them eat.  You can provide resources for parents but that doesn’t guarantee they will take advantage of it or that they will even disciple their kids at home and as they walk through life.

Our mission trips at NHC involve adults, parents, teens and even children.  We just had a team get back from Honduras and the team included parents and their elementary age children.  We will go to Eleuthera again this spring and the team will be adults and teenagers mixed together.

Do we have events and activities?  Yes.  We strive not to fill calendars though and our events and activities have a purpose behind them when they do.  Parents’ and teens’ calendars are already filled to the max so if we do something it has a purpose of exposing students to Christianity or giving our students some needed fellowship time.  It’s good to have fun together.  We make the mistake of picturing Jesus and his disciples as always being serious and never having fun but Jesus created fun and relationships so I’m pretty sure they had times where they laughed together.

Check back in a couple of days for Family Church VS Student Ministry Pt. 3

Friday, November 13, 2015

Family Church VS Student Ministry

I hate reading long blog posts.  Sorry.  But there was no way to tackle this in a few paragraphs, so I’m going to tackle it in a few blog posts. 

The Challenge:
I was recently challenged on Instagram to watch the movie, Divided About Youth Ministry, on Youtube.  The individual who dropped this challenge on me apparently is adamant that there should be no youth ministry in the church.  So I watched the movie. 

There is a movement among some churches where there is no age division.  So everyone from baby to granny sit together in worship together.  If that’s what they feel, as a church, they are to do then that is fine.  The problem is some go overboard and believe this is what every church should do and if you aren’t doing it then you are wrong.

The basis of the movie was that youth ministry is ineffective and students are walking away from their faith when they hit college or even before.  The fix, according to the movie, is that parents be the disciplers of their children.  This, according to the movie, is accomplished by removing the youth group ( or other age/gender divided Sunday School or small groups or women’s ministry, etc.) and everyone sitting in church together. 

How does this approach make the parents the disciplers of their children?  In my opinion a teen can sit in church worship service with their parents and still not be discipled at home.  The answer to parents discipling isn’t “let’s all sit together in church” or “drop the kid off at youth group”.  The answer to parents discipling their kids is to equip and assist parents in the discipleship of their child.  

Statistics, the movie uses statistics to back up their claim that students are leaving their faith.  Yes, the stat is 4 out of 5 will leave their faith.  I would be interested to see a study done specifically among the family churches to see what their stat would be.  This statistic was not given in the movie.  I would think that among the statistic that 4 out of 5 kids walk away from their faith after high school would include students who sat in church with their parents and didn’t attend youth group either because their church had no youth ministry or they chose not to attend youth group.  I sat here and thought about the teens in the two churches I have served in who chose not to attend youth group but were in church worship with their parents on Sunday morning.  Not one of them, to my knowledge, is involved in church today. 

So students who sit with mom and dad in church and students who are actively involved in are walking away from their faith.  What could be the key then?  Could it be that discipleship at home isn’t happening in those cases?  Could be. 

A few of the flaws I found in the movie:

  • If this movement is all about the church then why did they interview para church ministry leaders?  If you go to Answers in Genesis’ website they have age divided material/resources and pages.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like Answers in Genesis and there is some good material on their website and their kids page is cool.
  • I have heard one of the prominent pastors interviewed in the movie speak on 4 different occasions.  Interestingly enough all 4 of those occasions were in youth group settings. Events where youth groups converged either for a weekend event or for an entire week of youth camp.  So the pastor must not be totally against youth ministry and must see that there is some validity in having student ministry.
  • The cutting room floor.  When showing their on the street interviews with teens and young adults they didn’t show any that were strong in their faith, or had the right answers who were actively involved, or were when they were teens, in a student ministry.  Surely there had to be some.  Just because a teen says they attended a youth group or even just because an adult attends church doesn’t mean you are going to get spot on, theologically sound, answers one hundred percent of the time.
Check back in a couple of days for part 2 of Family Church VS Student Ministry

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Student Ministry Impact Killers

The Lone Ranger - No way that one person can minister to an entire youth group, even a “small” youth group.  Jesus discipled a group of 12, I’m not Jesus so I would say that number is a bit high for me.  In our youth ministry we like the ratio of 6 students per 1 adult leader.  Spread out the ministry and your team will reach more and have an impact on more lives. 

No Vision -  Youth group is just a social gathering.  There is no reason, or master plan, for gathering the students together each week.  It is most important to remind them often of the purpose of your youth ministry and why you are on the face of this planet.  Why does your church’s youth ministry exist?  Be specific.  How do you carry out that vision?

No Ministry
- The adults faithfully minister to the students.  Adults can also end up doing all the ministry rather than teaching the students how to minister and giving them the opportunity to serve.  We need to teach students about how God has shaped them to serve each other, the church.  Give students opportunities to serve.

The Cold
- Not the common cold or even cold weather, which I despise with all that’s in me.  But the cold feeling when a student who has either never been to youth group or is returning after a long extended absence.   Cliques are normal, in my opinion, we naturally are attracted to people and groups who are like us.  The old “birds of a feather” mentality.  We need to help our students to understand what it means to make a first impression and also to extend a warm welcome to the new kid or the returning prodigal.

The Driver’s License - Let’s be honest, the reason most youth groups have an abundance of middle school students is because middle school students don’t have many options.  There are so many places they can ride to on their skate board or bicycle.  That day of freedom when the keys that open the magical world of driving are handed off is also often the day that youth group takes a back seat in the new driver’s life.  There are so many more options out there once they can drive.  We need to help students, in those years leading up to the driver’s license, see the impact they can have by driving friends with them to youth group, use their car, or momma’s SUV, as a mission tool.

The Job
- In our area this is a biggie because students get summer jobs at age 14.  We know that jobs aren’t evil.  We also know that jobs are important to a student if they want some spending cash and for the rare child who dreams of saving up money.  We need to help students learn that:

A.  You are going to work your entire life.  So don’t rush into it.

B.  McDonalds will more than likely not be your career.

C.  You can tell the manager doing the interview that you are heavily involved in your church’s youth ministry and it is important for you to now work on church days or when your youth group meets.  Student’s need to promise, and follow through, with working hard as they can when they are on the clock and faithful to be there when scheduled.

This pattern of working and missing corporate worship is something that will stick with kids into their adult years. I know that we, and I’m speaking as a parent, don’t want our children to view corporate worship as not important in life when they become adults.

The boy/girlfriend
- Can I get an “Amen”?  Not much to be said here.  We see it happen time and again.  Priorities shift.  We need to help students learn how to have healthy relationships both with friends and with God.  Passion for Jesus Christ is the flame that needs to be fanned.  If a student is passionate about Jesus they are less likely (not a guarantee) to be pulled away from fellowship by a boy/girlfriend.  We must help them learn that Jesus is to be the center of their universe because he will always be there but the boy/girlfriend won’t.

The disengaged Christian parent - This is the Christian parent who doesn’t realize, or ignores, the fact that they are responsible and will be held accountable for how they disciple their child.  Part of discipleship is training your son or daughter in the importance of corporate worship.  We need to help parents discover that the youth ministry team is here to come along side of them as they disciple their teen.  There is significant evidence that students who connect with 5 adults in their church will be more likely to continue on in their faith walk after high school.  Teach them not just about corporate worship but also, by example, show them what following Christ daily looks like.  Parents, does your teen see you with the Bible open on your lap having your daily quiet time?

This isn’t the ultimate list and I’m sure my student ministry friends can think of some more.  You can have the most awesome student worship band, the best teaching, the craziest games, the coolest events and trips and still lose the battle to one of the impact killers listed above.  So what do you do?  Focus on the faithful, focus on the students who desire a lasting, growing relationship with God.  Don’t neglect the ones who stray, reach out to them but don’t let them steal the time away you could be investing into a students(s) who wants to grow.  

The one thing I didn’t list above but has much to do with our responsibility is to plan and prep.  Make sure you are planning and preparing for each student worship gathering, don’t wing it, don’t wait until the afternoon of the gathering, don’t count on the Holy Spirit to bail you out every time for lack of preparation. 

Students will come and go.  There is no way you can 100% effectively close the back door.  Don't let students who fizzle and stray steal the joy you find in ministering to students.  Stay faithful, often you won't see the results of your efforts until the student is an adult.

Friday, October 9, 2015

"I have a great idea!"

If you have been in ministry longer than a week you have experienced the following scenario:
“Hi __________ (insert your name here), I have a great idea for the youth group (or insert your ministry here)!”  Often the idea comes from someone who has nothing to do with the student ministry of your church.  Sometimes the ideas truly are great and sometimes they are not.  Most of the time they mean well.

Regardless of who says this or if it is a great idea or not I have a few thoughts:
Opportunity to Equip 
This is an excellent opportunity to equip someone minister.  If it truly is a great idea have them submit a plan and turn them loose to lead it with your input on expectations.  Maybe the person’s small group or Sunday School class could get involved in leading the event.


Look at the Calendar

Sometimes it is a great idea but you know your community’s culture and calendar.  Would the idea actually work?  What’s happening the week before and the week after that might get in the way of people participating in the idea.

Ask the Idea Gal Some Question
How does this fit into our church’s vision and purpose?

What will this event accomplish in the lives of students and or our community?
What are your goals for this idea? 
If the idea requires money where will that money come from?

Will it Work with the Student Ministry Plan
What do you have going on this year in student ministry and how will this fit into your strategy and plan?  Sometimes great ideas are brought to you a few days or even a week or two before the event.  I often get approached from other ministries in our community inviting our youth to participate in an event and many times there is not enough time to promote it.  I received a call on a Monday inviting our youth group to an event on Wednesday.  The person even wanted me to take the time to call each student.  Poor planning = Poor Success.  I would encourage you to map our your entire year’s student ministry from messages/lessons to events and activities.

Learn to Say No
For most of us it is hard to say "No".  Too many times I agreed to do something because I didn't know how to say "No" and I ended up dreading the entire process or event.  Figure out your parameters for saying "Yes" and "No".  Is this something someone else can do?  Is it something that only you can do?  Is it part of your ministries vision and purpose?  Do you have the time to invest to make it a success?  Is it something that God wants you to do?

Be Honest with the Person:

Thanks for your input.  I don't think it is a great idea.
Here is why I don’t think it’s a great idea . . . .  Maybe you can tweak the idea and come back with a plan. 

I honestly don’t have time to plan out this great idea
We all have much on our plate and most student ministers are wearing multiple hats in their church and doing at least two different full time positions rolled into one.  So we can’t truly give student ministry 100%.   We already have messages and worship gatherings to plan as well as activities and events.  So we are busy in ministry and we have family life and a private life on top of that.

I don’t have the time to give what would take to make this a success.

Seize the opportunity to let this person take the lead in a ministry event.  Equip them to lead, that would probably be a better use of time because the more leaders the more you can accomplish.  Perhaps come up with an event form that helps give guidelines and deadlines.  (I’ll blog on this in the near future)

I won’t do well leading this because it just isn’t my passion.

BUT I can see you are passionate about this.  Can you take the lead on this one?  We all excel in areas we are passionate about.  I’m not passionate about car washes therefore I don’t do car washes.

Get ready because someone near you has an idea!

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Things Every Adult Needs to Know About Teens

Teens need relationships with adults in their church. 

Students who had at least 5 adults investing into their lives are more likely to continue their faith walk after high school.  Too many churches hire a youth pastor and expect him or her to do all the work, all the investing, all the planning, all the teaching.  
No one person can be all of that to all the students in a church’s youth ministry.  Jesus was the son of God and he invested in twelve and then those twelve went on to invest in others.  More on this HERE.

Teens need to serve.
Teenagers who are Christ followers have spiritual gifts and those gifts are not to be kept to one’s self.  Give students opportunities to minister and serve in the church and in youth ministry.  We all know the satisfaction you feel when you take what God has given you and accomplish something, complete a task, or simply help someone.  Students have that same need.

Teens need examples.
Teenagers need to be able to look at the adults in your church and see examples of what a Christ follower looks like.  When they look do they see servants?  Do they see ministers?  Do they see missionaries?  OR do they see pew warmers?  Bench sitters?
 Do they see adults worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ in spirit and in truth?

Teens are the church.
Does the phrase, “these kids are the church of the future” drive anyone else nuts or is it just me?  If a teen has put their faith in Christ then that teen is part of the church, today, here and now.  So treat them as such.  What do you expect from the members of the church?  Put those same expectations on teenagers.  This helps them to learn how to be an active, responsible part of the church.  Let them lead!

Teens need to be “self-feeders”.

Equip students to learn how to feed themselves from God’s Word.  They won’t always be in this cozy warm incubator we call “Youth Group”.  They are going to step out into the real world and if no one has taught them how to feed themselves they will starve spiritually.  Help them learn to have a world-view that is filtered through the lens of the scripture.  Ask questions that make them think.  Give them material to use so they can have their own personal daily quiet time.  Ask them, one on one, “What was did you learn last week in your daily quiet time?”  (and be ready to share something from your own daily quiet time)  A shepherd takes the sheep to a place to feed, provides the opportunity for grazing.

The above 5 things aren’t an all inclusive list and they don’t guarantee a kid won’t walk away from their faith when they graduate.  Our responsibility is to shepherd and equip and then the choice is theirs as to what they will do with what they have been given.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Great Youth Ministers Build Relationships

I know that most youth leaders don’t want to be labeled as “great” because the majority are humble people who just want to make a difference.

  Twenty years ago I moved from a volunteer position in a little church in northern Oklahoma to being a full time youth pastor at Harmony Baptist Church in southeast Oklahoma.  I still can’t believe they hired me.  My college training was audio production.  The only experience I had was running my own business, a multitude of different jobs, and a couple of years of teaching youth Sunday School and ministering to students.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I could not teach Sunday School, Discipleship training time, and our Wednesday night youth group.  Thankfully there were some Sunday school teachers in place but I needed one more.  So I went on the hunt.  I didn’t know much back then and not many books had been written on the topic of building a team, in fact among a large portion of smaller Southern Baptist Churches the youth ministry philosophy was “hire a youth pastor and let him do all the work”. 

My strategy was simple.  Look for someone already connecting with students.  I noticed a couple after church on Sunday mornings standing and talking in the isles with other people.  Who were the other people?  Middle and high school students.  So I put my crosshairs on Greg and Kellie.  Soon they were teaching the high school Sunday School.  They also slid right into helping on Wednesday nights. 

On the job training is where they (and I for that matter) honed their youth ministry skills.  I don’t remember ever sitting in and listening to them teach Sunday school.  I don’t remember any lessons they taught.  I do remember them laughing with students, joking with students, talking with students and hanging out with students.  They invested into a small group of teenagers.  That is youth ministry!

I remember hanging out with Greg and Kellie, eating meals together both in our homes and out on the town.   I remember even fishing and camping with them by the lake in the woods behind our home.  (camp close so the ladies can drive up to the house for the facilities)  I remember taking a road trip with them to the mountains of Arkansas, and I got us lost a little as we traveled back home.  We had great times together as friends.

I love Greg and Kellie for a few reasons.  They always were a support and encouragement to me as a youth pastor.  They loved students and invested in their lives.  They are great friends.

Greg and Kellie were great youth ministers because they were investors, they invested into the lives of students. 

Yesterday my friend, Greg, went home to be with the Lord after a year long battle with cancer.  Today I’m positive he is worshipping at the feet of Jesus Christ, no more pain, perfect.  One day I will get to join him in that worship and we will look around and see the students that he and Kellie invested in worshipping along side of us.

Greg was a great youth minister.

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Things Every Teenager Needs to Know about their Faith

Know their Faith 
What they believe.
One of our main purposes in our student ministry is to equip our students to understand and grasp their faith.  Owning one’s faith is vital to spiritual growth and success.  It is sad to see a student go off to college and then a liberal, non-believing, professor blows their faith apart.  Why is this even possible?  The professor knows what he believes even though what he knows is wrong.  The professor is firmly established in his belief system, even if he believes in nothing. 

Our students have to be stronger in knowing what they believe.  Ask a student, or even many church going adults, what they believe and they will tell you they believe in God and Jesus but their knowledge of God and Jesus goes nowhere beyond that point.

Reason behind their Faith

Why they believe.

When a student knows what they believe they need to be able to back it up with why they believe.  Belief is what saves but knowledge of their faith is what helps them grow and stand firm.  Ask a student “Why do you believe in God?”.  We as youth ministers need to be answering those types of questions as we teach, we need to give them the “ammunition” to be able to back up what they believe.  They need to be ready to give an answer as to why they believe.

Consistant Faith
God’s Word is unchanging.
Students need to grasp that God’s Word does not change.  We live in a fluid culture that is constantly changing.  What was taboo ten years ago is now accepted as normal.  When God’s Word says something is sin then it will always be sin regardless of what our society, culture or even government says about it.  When students grasp that God’s word is unchanging they will be encouraged because that means God’s love for them is unchanging.  With the divorce rate in America and the constant going back and forth between living with one parent then the other students need something to hold onto that is constant and consistent and God is unchanging.

Grow their Faith 
Growth requires investment and times of stretching.

Students need to establish the habit in their life of spending time daily in His word and in prayer.  Anything that grows has to be fed.  What is the diet of your students?   What is it they are taking in on a daily basis?  In many churches we have adults showing up to be fed, some will even leave a church on the basis of “I wasn’t being fed”.  At some point in our faith we have to know how to feed ourselves.  If a 13 year old kid can’t feed himself food at meal time people will look and say, “something is wrong with that kid”.  Same thing goes with us as believers.  As we grow in our faith part of that growth has to be feeding ourselves.  We have to eat more than once a week.  Many Christians are anemic because they only get fed by the pastor on Sunday mornings.  That’s the only spiritual meal they eat each week. 

Share their Faith 
We aren’t meant to keep our faith to ourselves, it’s personal but not private. 
Sharing our faith should flow naturally and be part of our daily lives and interaction with our world around us.  I, as a youth pastor, have been guilty of focusing on “bring your friend to youth group to hear the gospel” when I should have been focusing on equipping students to share their faith with their friends.  When a student shares their faith with a friend and eventually that friend comes to know Christ coming to church will follow.  Should they invite their friends? Yes.  Should they learn to invest in their friend’s lives?  Most definitely.  Jesus last words to his disciples was his command for them to go into all the world and share the gospel.  Sharing one’s faith is part of becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.  We need to equip students and encourage students to share their faith.

Our Role

Some practical things we can do in our student ministry to move towards accomplishing the five areas about faith listed above:

  • Investment from adults in the church.  We need adults on our team who love teenagers and desire to help teens grow in their faith.  Adults who can model discipleship to students.

A balanced plan or strategy.  We need to plan out our messages/lessons well in advance with a plan to answer questions about faith.  If your plan is to figure out on Thursday what you will teach next Wednesday night you need a better plan than that.  Sit down with some students and adults and look at entire year and come up with plan.

  • Apologetics.  Look for opportunities to share helpful information to help students defend their faith.  Books, conferences, messages, small group discussion, etc.
  • Pull in current events into messages to teach students about God’s unchanging truth.
  • Equip, teach and supply students with what they need to study God’s Word on their own.  Give them quiet time journals, teach them a strategy, model this with your own life.

You can find helpful resources for equipping student in their faith here:  
LeaderTreks Deep Discipleship - a systematic approach to discipleship

Download Youth Ministry - great teaching series that you can purchase.
Simply Youth Ministry - teaching series, quiet time and devotional material
Group Publishing 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

"We do mission trips instead of camp."

I don’t have a problem with doing mission trip instead of camp.  I have had youth leaders and even students use the phrase, “We do mission trips instead of camp.” in hyper-spiritual way.  I personally think mission trips and summer camp have two entirely different purposes and goals. 

Summer camp’s focus should be on spiritual growth and bringing lost students to know Christ.  As I posted earlier, camp is a great time to help a student grow spiritually.  The focus is on teaching and worship.  I have even heard “Summer camp is focused on the student” in a negative way.  Yes!  Camp does focus on the individual student.  It’s called focusing on discipleship and spiritual growth.  It’s important and camp is great tool for accomplishing that purpose.

Mission trips teach students to reach out to the lost, to focus on individuals in need, move students out of their comfort zone.  We hope teaching students to come back home with a vision to reach the lost in their own community.   A totally different purpose from summer camp.  Of course when this happens spiritual growth can occur as well.

Why do one over the other?

The volunteer youth leader may say, “I don’t have enough vacation time to do both.”  If your passion is missions find another volunteer(s) in the church to take your group to camp or find a camp where your group can go without the need of staffing the camp yourselves.

“We don’t have the money.”  Yes, camps and mission trips can add up financially.  I have been amazed by the small churches that don’t have an abundance of funds trying to pay the way for all their kids to go to camp.  I understand scholarships, I understand helping off set the cost.  I also know that most parents will invest in their kid’s life if possible.  On average most Christian camps are far less expensive from sports camps.  I’ve seen parents drop a boat load of money to send their kid to football or soccer camp.  Our students pay for their own camp experience.  We have scholarship fund in place to help students.  I also designate some money in our student ministry budget towards camp.

Funding mission trips teaches students about the connection between finances and reaching the lost.  Our church budgets an amount to help fund mission trips but our students have to raise the bulk of their funds.  Last spring we took a mission team of 15 on a trip, the budget was around $29,000.00 for the trip, the church gave $6000 from the budget and $2000 in a love offering.  The other $21,000 was raised by individuals on the team.  Biblically when you look at the mission trips of the new testament the missionaries were backed financially by the church.

One idea I want to use this year in funding our mission trip for next spring is for students who are not going to become part of the team by helping by giving financially out of their own pocket and by sending out support letters.  
I firmly believe that where God guides he provides. 

I’m sold on doing a separate mission trip and camp experience.  Some students need that time to focus on their own spiritual walk that camp gives.  They need the camp experience to challenge them to grow and move to the next level.  Not every student is ready for a mission trip. (we take only mature eighth graders through seniors and they have to fill out an application to join the mission team)  Some students are ready for a mission trip and need that experience in their life to move them to their next level of growth and can be used to build leadership into your youth ministry.

Is doing a mission trip instead of camp wrong?  I don’t think so.  Is doing a combined camp and mission trip wrong?  I don’t think so.  But I would like to challenge us to think about the impact of doing the two separately can have.  The two have different purposes and goals so consider doing them separately.

If you are looking for a cool combination camp/mission trip check out LeaderTreks.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Choosing Your Camp Experience

What is your purpose and goal for taking students to camp?
For us our main purpose is to help students grow in their faith.  That could mean coming to know Christ as their Savior or taking that next step in their faith that will take them deeper.  Figure our your purpose and goal and build from there.

Change it up.  It is easy to get stuck in a rut.  Something I’ve noticed this year is that our older students weren’t signing up for camp.  Why? Some have summer jobs and are afraid to ask off, or don’t want to lose that money they could have earned.  (have to help them see that the spiritual investment is more valuable than the $200)
I think many of them had been to the same camp experience a few years in a row and were ready for something different.

When I arrived at Nags Head Church the youth had gone for a few years to a certain camp.  After I did some research I realized that camp didn’t fit the camp experience I wanted our students to have.  I was coming from a church that attended Fall’s Creek, a huge camp, and I wanted our church’s students to experience something similar.  I discovered Student Life.  So for several years we did Student Life camps, Student Life is a great camp, solid doctrinally, great worship, locations all across the US. 

Nine years of doing Student Life and then we decided to go do our own camp.  So we loaded the students in vans and drove to a huge log cabin that slept 50 in the Smokey Mountains of TN.  The next year we rented a camp up in the Shenandoah Valley of Va.  Doing our own camp was a good change but it was very labor intensive and required several adult volunteers to use their vacation time to help at camp.

After a couple years of doing our own camp I got a call from Matt Thomas at Camp Cale.  Matt was the new camp director and his desire was to see church youth groups to come together to camp.  For a long time Camp Cale has existed and the focus has been on individuals coming to camp on their own.  Matt desire to see churches grasp the impact that coming as a youth group to camp can have.  I told Matt we would give Cale a shot but they only had one shot to make it right.  Now we have gone to Cale for three years as a youth group.


This summer after realizing our upperclassman weren’t going to camp I quickly put together a 3 day retreat for upperclassman.  The goal was to build some unity and cast vision for the coming school year of building leadership among our students and moving toward student led youth ministry.  This mini camp accomplished that goal and purpose.

So next summer we are changing it up.  We will take our 7th through 9th graders to Camp Cale and we will do a camp trip for our upperclassman.  Trying something new and different to see how it works in hopes that this new approach will help keep the older students involved in taking advantage of the camp experience each summer and give the younger students something to look forward to.

Don’t be afraid to change it up.  Some feathers might get ruffled but our needs for our youth ministry change from year to year which means the way we do youth ministry will need to change as well.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Choosing Summer Camp

(Part 1 of the Summer Camp posts here)

It’s good to change things up every now and then.  Our student ministries can get in a rut.  Ever notice your camp attendance drop?  Perhaps it’s time to mix it up and throw in something new and different.

When I look for a summer camp experience I look for:

Good facilities - students today need air conditioning.  It’s hard to get a good night’s sleep if you are dripping in sweat.  (unless you are doing an adventure camp in tents which is a totally different approach and strategy/purpose to the camp trip)  I remember speaking at a camp the first night I preached we were in a room with the windows open and ceiling fans on and it was still in the 90 something degree range.  It’s hard for students to focus on God’s word and the message if they are melting away.  I let the camp director know that I couldn’t continue to teach that week if the AC wasn’t turned on.  They had air conditioning they just weren’t running it “to save money”.

Doctrinally Sound - I want my students to learn the Bible and the truth.  I don’t want them misled.  I certainly wouldn’t take my students to any camp or event that didn’t line up with my church’s doctrinal statement. 

Excellent recreation opportunities
- games, organized rec, climbing walls, ropes courses, etc.  The camp we been attending for a few years now has added a gaga ball pit.  That thing is always full during free time, the students love it.  I loved it until I broke my big toe.

Friendly staff
- I’m a huge fan of good customer service.  I look for a camp administration and staff treats your students in a way that shows they want the students there at camp and enjoys having them there. 

Good food
- Camp can be miserable if the food isn’t good.  Students are expending lots of energy at camp and they need to be refueled.  I also look for a camp that feeds them until they are full.  Some students eat like a bird, other students need a little more fuel in their tanks.  Good camps know what students like to eat.

Special moments
- Camps that create in their schedule special moments that build great memories.  Things like: campfires, messy games, hiking, concert, etc.  Fun can help bring down barriers.

Close to home - I have done the ten hour drive to camp in van rentals.  I don’t want to go through that again.  Do you know how many times you will hear “are we there yet?” in ten hours?  I like finding a camp that you can drive to in a matter of minutes to 6 hours (that’s my max travel time in my old age)  I don’t want to waste 2 days of camp on the road.  Close to home saves money in gas.  Perhaps you can get volunteers from the church to shuttle your students if the camp isn’t real far and that saves money in renting vans which in turn allows you to sink that money into your youth budget.  Win Win!

So are you already planning for camp next summer?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why Summer Camp?

Summer camp holds a special place in my heart.  Why?
  From fourth grade through eighth grade I worked at a camp named “Treasure Island”.  This camp was in the middle of the James River on an actual island.  The camp had several weeks of camp each summer for 4th through 6th graders.  This was my first taste of camp.

In high school our church’s youth group would go to camp.  We rented cabins at Waianapanapa State Park we were a small church and it was a small camp but many fun and good memories.

Once I started in youth ministry as a volunteer at a small church in rural Oklahoma I found myself joining forces with a larger youth ministry to take our students to Fall’s Creek, the world’s largest Christian camp.  Fall’s Creek was amazing.  Incredible camp pastors, great worship leaders, just a huge experience.  When I went into youth ministry full time we took our youth group to Fall’s Creek each summer.

When I moved to North Carolina to be a student minister we started taking our students to Student Life camps.  Over the past 14 years we have done a mix of Student Life, our own camps, and Camp Cale.  Every summer of the past 22 years I have been part of taking students to summer camp.  In fact in the past 22 years over a year of time from my life has been spent at camps, retreats and youth group trips.

Why do summer camp?

  • Removes students from their usual routine and atmosphere.
    There is something about getting away from the normal ebb and flow of your life that helps take your guard down.  Going to a place where most of life’s distractions are removed helps one to focus on God.  Sometimes when the noise of life is removed a student can better hear that still small voice, the whisper of God.
  • Provides a temporary escape.  

    It’s sad but there are students who have a terrible home life.  There are students who get juggled from living with one parent then back to the other.  For them the “normal” of life is living in a constant state of flux.  At camp a student can be in a place where they don’t have to be concerned or even think about the mess back home.
  • A break.
    Students work hard (or should) all year in school, athletics, extra curricular activities.  Many of those students take up summer jobs.  God created this universe in six days and on the seventh day he rested.  God intends for us to take breaks and rest.  Camp can provide a well needed break for students and rest from normal life.
  • Intentional focus on God
    Summer camp provides a week where the focus is on God and spiritual growth.  It is rare in a person’s life to get to spend an entire week that is built around God and his word.  How many adults wish now that they could get away for a week and focus solely on their relationship with God.
  • Lives are changed at summer camp.
    I have seen summer camp have an impact and influence on so many teens’ lives.  I have seen students come to know Christ at camp and even carry that new relationship home and influence an entire family to turn to Jesus Christ.  Many students realize at camp God’s purpose for their lives and even answer the call to ministry at camp.
  • Camp can be a springboard.
    Camp can be a springboard to launch your youth group into a stage of growth and outreach.  Students come back from camp challenged in their faith walk.  This is a great time to take that challenge and build on it.  (more on that in another post)
  • Camp is fun.
    Let’s be honest, camp is fun!  Students have a great time at camp.  I have a blast when I’m at camp myself.  Most camps have built into their schedule some rec time for games and competition as well as some free time where students choose their afternoon activities.  Fun is a huge draw factor on getting kids to go to camp. 
  • Builds relationships.
    Camp provides students opportunity to build relationships within their own youth group.  Living together, eating together, playing together, worshipping together can be a huge factor in tightening and strengthening relationships among your students.
  • Influence.
    A week at camp allows you, their minister, to focus on them.  During the year we get around 50 to 100 hours with them at youth group.  A week of camp gives you 120 hours of living life with your students.  You get to sit around the table and chat with them, worship with them, cheer them on, spend focus time answering questions and asking questions.  When do you get that kind of opportunity as a youth pastor?

So now that summer is over we should be looking to next summer and deciding what to do about camp.  In my next blog post I’ll write about what I look for in a camp and even challenge you to mix it up, break away from what you always do, “We always go to ________ for camp”, or, “We do mission trips, not camps.”.  Try something new, do something different.

(Part 1 of 4 on Summer Camp)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Sabbatical Prep

Well when this posts I will have been on sabbatical for 4 days.

When you are the one that leads the student ministry there is a certain amount of prep work to have your ducks in a row before going on a sabbatical.  In my case there were three months worth of Student Church to assemble and schedule.  This took some extra work but after doing it I thought I might do this same approach to every quarter of the year so I can focus on other areas of student ministry and plan and put more effort into message prep.

Thankfully I have an awesome team of volunteers that lead our student ministry.  During my absence several will take turns bringing the message at Student Church.  We are also currently using LeaderTrek's Deep Discipleship curriculum.  This allowed me the ability to go in and edit and tweak to fit our Student worship time flow.  I set up a file box and put a folder in the box for each week's Student Church.  Each folder contains:
Message Outline
Student Handouts
First Crow - our pre game team meeting guide
Next Steps - student decision cards
POD Leader guides
POD student guides

In the dropbox I put folders that contain our powerpoint slides, video and music videos for our worship time.  This dropbox is accessible from the iMac in The Loft for our tech team.

The two keys that made it easier to plan this sabbatical were an awesome team of volunteers with some who have the gift of teaching and LeaderTrek's Deep Discipleship.  A sabbatical is a great time off to rest, refresh and renew and there is a lot of work that goes into the planning and a whole lot of photo copying.

Then as you leave your office for the sabbatical there is that little voice inside saying, "did you remember everything?"  I guess in 86 days I'll know the answer to that.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Taking a Sabbatical

I’m blessed to be serving in a church that has decided that pastoral staff should get a sabbatical.  Here is the sabbatical section of our personnel policy:

“The biblical principle of the Sabbath was given for man’s protection against burn out.  Not only does that apply to our work week and taking a day off, but there’s a longer range benefit as well.  The purpose of a sabbatical – an extended time away from work – is spiritual, relational, emotional and physical rest and recuperation.

After a staff pastor has completed five years of full time ministry at Nags Head Church he is eligible for a one month sabbatical.  Or he may choose to wait until the completion of seven years of ministry and take a sabbatical of up to three months.  During the time of sabbatical salary and benefits will continue to be paid by the church.  Sabbatical does not negate accrued vacation time, but is in addition to vacation.  Sabbaticals must be requested at least six months in advance and be approved by the elder body.”

I look forward to this time to refresh, renew and refuel!  I’m thankful that our church sees the benefit of a sabbatical.  This is my fourteenth year at NHC and this will be my second sabbatical.  My first sabbatical was when we brought the twins home.  I spent a month at home changing diapers, holding and feeding babies, living life with a huge lack of sleep.  Not really refreshed after that sabbatical but the time off was really appreciated and it hit at exactly the right time. 

If more churches put this into practice would they keep pastoral staff around longer than two or three years?  Would pastors get the 7 year itch to move on to a new ministry location?

My plans are to:

Spend more time reading the Word and articles and books.

Spend more time with my family investing in them.

Spend more time resting and relaxing and even taking long walks on the beach.
Spend more time working around the house and getting some projects done.

Take a few small road trips.

I plan on blogging more during this time and of course posting the meals I cook on instagram.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Cell Phone Post

The dreaded cell phone.  For years in youth ministry we have combatted the cell phone.  In the early years it wasn't a battle because phones were so expensive to have and to use.  In addition they were huge, a handheld looked like a military phone used to call in air strikes, the bag phone just wasn't cool to carry around.   

Because I’m an old man I probably struggled more than others.  When I was a teen we used land line phones if we were going to call each other.  We waited until we saw each other to talk and have conversations.  If we wanted to listen to music together we had to get into the 69 Bug (this was in 85, I’m not that old) and listen to Phil Collins on the boombox located in my backseat because I was too poor to install a stereo system.  To take a picture I had to get the roll of film for my Kodak camera, as a result I don’t have many pictures of me and my friends from the days of old.

I have seen the problems cell phones cause on youth trips or at youth group gatherings.  Students get locked into their own world with a friend who didn’t come on the trip, or boyfriend/girlfriend.  The student who puts in the ear buds to block out everyone else.  For sure there are problems with the cell phone on the trip or at youth worship gatherings.  Here it comes . . . .

BUT . . .

There are some benefits to the cell phone:

On the trip to the amusement park you can find students quickly and easily.  You can remind them in a group text to meet at the main gate at 8:55pm, etc.

Pictures are one of the best ways to promote events.  Students can instantly post pics to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.

You can’t be everywhere at the event at one time so students can share their pics with you to use to promote the event next year and on your web site/Facebook page.

Students are using their cell phone with Youversion app for their Bible reading.  A lot easier to carry to youth group and they actually have a Bible with them at all times.

Great pics from youth group worship can be posted immediately.

The “hover parent” can text their kid instead of texting you at 11:30pm to see how “Johnny” is doing on the trip.

BUT . . .

It’s good to lay down some ground rules.

Our rules at our Student Church on Sunday nights: 
If we see you texting a bunch we ask you to put it away.  If you are constantly on your phone we have a nice little box to put your phone in.

You are welcome to use your phone to take pics, post to social media.
Please use your phone and use your Bible app if you didn’t bring your Bible.

No earbuds or headphones.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A No Brainer

A few weeks ago I was on the beach with my family on a Sunday afternoon and as we left the beach I walked past a large group of local middle and high schools students who were hanging out at the beach. 

Each Sunday night during July and August our youth group meets at the beach, we have been doing this for 13 years.  We meet at a different beach access than the one my family was hanging out at.  As we left the beach that day the thought rolled through my mind, "Why not meet at a beach access where middle and high school students are already hanging out at?"  It was sort of a "no brainer" moment.  But I tucked it away in my cranium and let it roll around in there for a few weeks.  It kept surfacing and I kept tucking it away in the noggin.

Last week I got a "nudge" that pushed me to make the decision.  I ran it by our team of volunteers and they were all on board.  I even got a few, "Change is good!"

So we are going to amp it up in a few ways:

1.  Our students will lead the way in setting up the beach for our student church on the beach.
2.  Our students will set up  Beach volleyball, cornhole, KanJam, Spikeball.
2.  Set up a large pop up canopy with a banner (possibly set up earlier in the day to get attention)
3.  Continue to grill hot dogs as we have in the past (but grill more)
4.  Play some music
5.  Have our students be the ones that go around and invite the middle and high school students there to join the fun.

The trick is getting our students to catch the vision.  I'm promoting it with parents via email and Facebook group.  I'm promoting it among the students via Instagram.

July 5th is our launch of youth group on the beach 2.0 - Student Church on the Beach.  Check back and I'll let you know how it is going.  Join us in praying for a great success in sharing the love of Jesus Christ with students at the beach.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Last Night in The Loft

Wow!  It has been a while since I have posted in the old blog.  Been super busy and just haven't taken the time.  Trying to get back in the saddle.

Last night we had an eventful evening.  We have several graduates to say goodbye to so we celebrated with cupcakes and sub sandwiches.  Each graduate received a copy of "Moving On" Knowing where you're going to go and how to get there.  This book is from our fine friends at LeaderTreks and Doug Franklin.

Our current series has been The Real World.  We have dealt with the fact that life is full of struggles, finances, being a light in a dark world.  Last night we took a look at My Place in the real world.  Quick overview of the message:

  •  God has a plan and that plan includes you.  Jeremiah 29:11
    • God is sovereign
  •  Find His Plan
    •  Right Now > follow him, share him, love others
    • In the Future
      • How do I discover his plan for my life?
        • Spend time in the Bible and prayer
        • Ask God to show you.  Proverbs 3:5-6
        • Seek advice from godly and more mature people
        • Don't get so consumed by the future that you miss out on today
          Matthew 6:33, 34
  • Seize the Opportunity   (Esther's story; Esther 4:14
We  said "Welcome" to our 5th graders moving into 6th grade.  This was a big moment for me personally as my eldest man-child is now in the youth group.  I'm now my son's youth pastor.   How did this happen so fast?  This could get interesting.  

my boy's first student worship experience
We said "Goodbye" to Marie.  Marie has served with me in youth ministry as a volunteer longer than anyone else at NHC, probably around 12 years.  We are going to miss Marie on Sunday nights!!  Marie has decided that she is going to switch it up.  She will be working with our 4th and 5th graders on Sunday mornings.  Where did I spot her during Hang Time last night?  Doing what she does best, sitting with middle school girls talking with them and building relationships.  It is the end of an era.  She will be missed but I'm excited for how God is going to use her in the lives of our 4th and 5th grade students.
 Marie is dead center in our YM Team photo strip

The YM Team left the church and headed to the Snow Bird for some ice cream and time to hang out with Marie on her last night of serving with us.  Nothing consoles the heart like a big old scoop of ice cream.  (I had moose tracks)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Mission Trip

We just returned from a great mission trip.  We took 9 students and 6 adults to the island of Eleuthera to work at Camp Bahamas.  Some think right way, “Oh, yeah.  The Bahamas.  Right.”  We discovered on our trip that 75% of children born in the Bahamas last year were born to single moms.  Over 60% of the nations population is under the age of 24.  This nation doesn’t stand a chance if the youth are not reached with the gospel.

Camp Bahamas is knocking it out of the park.  The only Christian camp, that I’m aware of, in an entire nation.  For 6 weeks in the summer they put on camp for children and youth.  Eighty kids a week show up to have fun, play sports and learn about the love of Jesus Christ.  During the year they host many retreats and events that are focused on life change through Jesus.

When you hear the history and vision of the camp from camp director, Richard Albury, you immediately know that Camp Bahamas is a “God thing”.  

Our group had the honor of serving Camp Bahamas for several days.  We flew in on a Saturday.  We arrived late in the afternoon and unloaded and got set in our cabins then spent some time relaxing and jumping in the ocean before dinner.

Sunday we attended worship at a Hatian church where the service was almost entirely in Creole.  What a great experience for our students!  The Hatians loved worshipping and being at church, you could see the joy of the Lord in them.  Two of our students shared their testimony and the pastor interpreted for them.  These two students moved way out of their comfort zone.

Monday we worked all day at the camp clearing brush and picking up trash and construction debris.

Tuesday through Thursday we worked at the camp in the mornings and then in the afternoons we went to a local park and played ball with the kids.  One day we bought them all ice cream.  Each day at the park one of our students shared a Bible story with the kids.  It was interesting that on the first day there was only one kid at the park when we arrived and it didn’t take long for word to spread through the settlement of Tarpum Bay that we were at the park.  Soon we had about 20 something kids there playing ball with us.  This was our students’ favorite part of the mission trip.  On the final day at the park I followed up the Bible story with the gospel.

Friday was our “free” day.  We helped clean up some cabins in the morning then went out to lunch and spend the afternoon swimming and went and checked out a banyan tree.

 Each morning we worked on our quiet time journal which was specifically designed for a mission trip.  You can find these resources at LeaderTreks.  Each evening after dinner we gathered together for a team meeting.  We reviewed our day and evaluated our team.

The purposes of this trip was to:
Expose students to a different culture
Move students out of their comfort zone

Allow students to experience a short term mission experience

Serve and minister to Camp Bahamas staff and future campers

Share the love of Christ with the kids of Eleuthera

What an awesome experience we had together and everyone on the trip is already talking of a return mission trip. 
  I'm not gonna lie, for an old guy the work wore me out and I had muscles aching, muscles I had forgotten about long ago.  As a youth pastor I was so encouraged by our students serving without complaining and doing what was asked of them.  They truly understood the reason why they were on the island.   Now we are talking of how we can apply what we learned in Eleuthera here in our own community. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Last Night in The Loft

 Last night in The Loft:

5:50 Games - Boxes (great game and a student won the grand prize of dinner for himself and 3 friends, chauffered in the big blue van of happiness to a local mexican food restaurant)
6:00 - Song - Our God
6:05 - Prayer led by student, Offering
6:07 - Song - Whom Shall I Fear
6:11 - Video - To This Day
6:20 - Andy - Intro to the study
6:23 - PODz (small groups)
7:00 - Hang Time (quesadillas and floats)
8:00 - Goodnight

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Last Sunday in The Loft

Well actually we were outside The Loft half the time.

Our line up was as follows:
5:45 - Music going; Check in station manned

5:50 - Game  - Blocks
(starting the ice breaker games a little earlier in hopes to get our few "late comers" to arrive early/on time)

6:00 - Song - We Believe

6:05 - Song - Whom Shall I fear

6:10 -  Message - Rescue series - Sacrifice: Why did Jesus have to die?

6:25 - Next Steps/Offering

6:30 -PODS (small groups)

7:00 - Hang Time

During Hang Time we went out to the fire pit and roasted hot dogs and had all the fixins to go with and sat/stood around the fire and chatted.  Also we made Smores, always a crowd favorite.  Some of the students played some soccer.  Good times were had by all.
 instagram promo pics

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Social Media Promotion

 Do you use Instagram or social media to promote your youth ministry?

Lately I have been making two Instagram pics each week to promote our Sunday night youth group gathering.  I usually make one that focuses on the message and one that focuses on the food and fun.  I then post them a few times during the week to spread the word.  Hopefully students will catch on and "like" and "share" with others.  We also use a # that students can use during youth group to post pics.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sunday Night in The Loft

Sunday night we had a great time in The Loft.

We were all pretty tired from the weekend.  Most of the youth group had attended The Call and many on our team had volunteered at The Call.  So we were tuckered out.  At least I was because I'm an old man.  Good turn out of students and some guests.

So it looked like this:
Game - Clumps (always a crowd favorite)
Song - Our God is Greater
Prayer and welcome by student
Song - Inside Out
Share time - students took turns sharing what they learned at The Call.
Offering -
Prayer Time - we sat in a big circle and students would share a prayer request and another students would pray for the request.  Working on getting students to not be afraid to pray out loud.

Followed by Hang Time - we had sloppy dogs and bacon cheese fries.

I give the night a 4 out of 5 popcorn boxes!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Call 2015

This past weekend we hosted The Call 2015.  Students from several different youth groups and their leaders gathered at Nags Head Church for a weekend of intensive learning and worship.

During our main worship sessions we were led in worship in music by the MP13 Band.  The band did a great job of leading and the students jumped right in.  Loved it!

Our first night Dave Glander shared his story of how God changed his life.  A powerful example of life-change.

Day two:

Students were picked a track for the weekend, so the students were with the same leader, same topic, same group of students for the weekend in the tracks.

We had Shane McGann from LeaderTreks leading the 4 sessions of leadership.  Shane did a great job, our students shared with me about some of the things they learned and the initiatives they did together in that track.

 I shared a message during our second worship session.  The focus was on being a follower of Jesus and not simply settling for being a believer in Jesus Christ.

Todd Kemp, youth pastor of Bagley Swamp Wesleyan Church, led our track on evangelism.  Students were equipped to share their faith and were given the opportunity to practice sharing together.

Amy Denson, youth pastor at Duck United Methodist Church, led the discipleship track.  Student learned some great spiritual habits to instill in their lives to help them grow in their faith and be more deeply rooted.

Dave Glander led our apologetics track.  The students had a great time learning to defend their faith.  One student said to me, "Dave blew evolution out of the water."

 I met with the youth leaders.  We wrote several topics we wanted to discuss together on a giant post it note.  Then we chipped away at the topics.  I also shared about our team restructure and our focus on discipleship in 2015.

Ramon Sanchez wrapped up the weekend by challenging students to take what they learned this weekend and put it into action in their lives, not just store it up but to let it go.

 This was the smoothest flowing The Call we have ever hosted.  Our volunteers knocked it out of the park!  Everyone knew what they were supposed to do and they did it.  Very little, if any, stress on me leading the event.  The sign of having great support from wonderful volunteers and good planning.

Already looking forward to The Call 2016!

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