Friday, February 26, 2016

Be Real on Social Media

Be real and be authentic on social media.

I know most all of our students now avoid Facebook.  We old people have scared them away.

If a person checking your church out, or even if one of your church members were to look at your Facebook page, instagram account, Twitter account what would they see?  What opinion about you might they construct in their mind.

We need to be real on our social media.  People need to see the real us.  Why?
If all they see on our posts or tweets is "churchy things", scripture verses, "holy" memes then they will construct an opinion that you are some sort of holier than thou, out of reach, on a pedestal, or possibly even think we are out of touch with the real world.  But if they see you post a pic of your meal with your spouse at a nice restaurant on date night, a tweet about something happening in your community, a post about something that you are upset about then they will see that you are human, just like them.

You see what the world needs to see in us is that we are human, we struggle, we have passions, we have causes we stand behind, we even engage in politics, we are part of a local motorcycle club, we are just like them.  The only difference that should be apparent, if the person reading our social media posts isn't a believer, is they should see what a relationship with Jesus Christ does in our lives and how it molds who we are even in our every day life.

Post what brings you joy.  

Post what makes you happy.

Post what brings you down.

Post what you are passionate about.

Post things that show you are a normal human being.

Post your scripture verses, devotional thoughts, church events, helpful Christian articles.

Don’t put individuals down.  Don’t engage in arguments.  The chances my Facebook debate is going to change someone’s mind is slim to nil.  I see Christians attack other Christians more over the past few years on Facebook and it seems to be increasing.

Post God’s truth but do it in love.  Sometimes the best thing love can do is to be quiet.  Believe me, this is hard, especially for those of us who don’t have the spiritual gift of mercy.

Scriptures we could apply to our social media presence:

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! 

Galatians 5:22-23

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  John 13:34-35

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.   Ephesians 4:15

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mission Trip To Eleuthera

We are about 30 days out from our student mission trip 2016 to the island of Eleuthera.  The dates of our trip are March 25 to April 1.  We will be serving Camp Bahamas by helping them with maintenance type work.  Each morning after breakfast and our quiet time we will head out to the campus and do some sort of physical labor to help the camp prepare for next summer's camps. 

Last year Camp Bahamas summer camp reached around 500 campers.  That is awesome!  500 Bahamian kids coming to camp for a week and hearing the gospel and how to grow in their faith.  There is really nothing else like this in the Bahamas.  The camp's facility is amazing and what God has done there just in the past several years is incredible.  Twenty three acres that stretch from the the Atlantic side to the Caribbean side.  The Camp has a high ropes course, zip line, water slide, gymnatorium, dining hall, cabins with air conditioning, paintball course, water activities and much more.

In 2015 Camp Bahamas hosted around 200 people for retreats and school trips.  That is another 200 people being exposed to the love of Jesus Christ on the campus.

We were part of last years numbers of missionaries that came to the camp, stayed there, worked there, went into the local settlements to share the gospel.  Three hundred missionaries in 2015!  That's a lot of churches and Christian school groups coming to help Camp Bahamas accomplish God's mission for Camp Bahamas.

So our team is gearing up.  Gathering supplies.  Working through our 4 week pre trip daily devotional on being a servant.  Building a team of prayer warriors to pray for us as we prepare and while we are there.  We are also gathering our financial support team to help us get to Eleuthera.

Nags Head Church doesn't do fundraisers.  We believe the church is called to send people on missions.  So we aren't having fundraisers every other week, no pancake breakfasts, no spaghetti dinners or BBQ's.  Each team member is responsible to raise their support and the church has also budgeted money for mission trips.  Last year our trip budget was a little over $25,000.00.  That included airfare to Nassau and then a charter plane to Rock Sound as well as our room and board at Camp Bahamas and our project supplies.   Most all of our team raised $1500 each last year by sending out support letters, the rest was offset by the budgeted money and a love offering.

If you would like to see a video about our trip and see how you can be involved please click HERE.

If you would like more information about Camp Bahamas and their awesome ministry and even investigate a possible mission trip please click HERE.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Last Night at Student Church

 Last night we continued our series Gravity.  We took a look at the Law of Glue.  Ramon, one of our volunteers, taught about dating boundaries and how emotional and physical intimacy can cause a young person great pain because that sort of intimacy is meant for marriage relationships.  So when a student becomes emotionally involved with a boy or girlfriend and there is the break up the lose a piece of themselves each time.  You can't glue two things together and then rip them apart without some damage.

Student were encouraged to set godly and healthy boundaries for their dating life. 

We had some great discussion during our Connect groups.  The discussion tied in with boundaries and students talked about the importance of boundaries.

During Hang Time we had several pockets of conversation happening, video games, ping pong.   Yes I won the one game of ping pong I played.   We ate Sloppy Dogs!  Years ago we had sloppy joes and the store was out of burger buns (strange isn't it?) so we used hot dog buns instead and now it is an annual tradition.  Sloppy Dogs!

Next week we talk about The Law or Robots and we are going to deal with identity.  Should be a good one.  Who were you?  The smart one, beautiful one, class clown, the athlete, the geek? 

Currently I'm working on our next series, Managing Life.  It's going to be a good one that we are producing in house and I can't wait to share the whiteboard video that has been made to promote and use as a bumper video.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Last Night at Student Church

Last night at student church we had our 2nd week of the series, Gravity.  We are spending about 5 weeks looking at the laws of life, things we cannot escape.  As, Ramon, my fellow youth guy who serves with me each as a volunteer kicked around some ideas for a series that fit just what we are doing with Gravity  I came across a helpful series.   I didn't like the graphics so we changed that up,  I also added a week,  so Gravity's week one actually became week two.  The series has been very helpful in formulating an outline and scriptures to cover.

You mean you taught something someone else wrote?  "Yes and No."  (More about this on March 4th)

So last night was the Law of Magnets.  The whole idea was about the influence of the crowd.  I started off with a story from my senior year when I got in trouble on a school event.  Lesson learned, it's not safe to throw passion fruit at and into another car while driving down the highway at 50mph.  I found my self on a Saturday morning with my buds cleaning a teacher's car inside and out.  How did I end up there?  I went along with the crowd.  Of course I was 18 and my synapse were not totally firing like they should in my brain.  We looked at Pilate as he tried Jesus.  Pilate found Jesus innocent but ultimately ended up going along with the crowd.  The crowd has incredible influence on our lives.

So we asked the questions:
Who is your crowd?
How is your crowd?

Students then discussed this in their Connect groups following the worship time.

We encouraged our students to find healthy crowds and to be an influencer instead of a follower and to find a person in their life that will challenge them to grow in their faith.

During Hang Time we had sandwiches and lots of Valentines themed treats.  Much ping pong was played, I think the table was used the entire Hang Time.  Lots of great conversations took place on the sofa areas and at the bistro tables between students and and the adults. 

The school has a 4 day weekend so this impacted attendance but I believe the students who were there got much out of the message.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Heart Prep for the Mission Trip

I know different youth groups have different approaches to who they will take on a mission trip.  We have several expectations for students to go on our annual foreign mission trip.  One is they need to be a Christ follower.  It's hard to represent someone you don't know.

Part of our preparation is monthly meetings.  Each month for several months we get together as a mission team and pray, focus and plan.  Before our last meeting I gave our team a month's notice to come prepared to share something from their quiet time.  My thinking is this, if I'm going to share Jesus with people it would really be helpful if I am actively growing in my faith.

At the meeting we opened in prayer and then I gave the team, students and adults alike, some time to share.  Only a few of the 16 of us had something to share.  So I know either:
A.  Some are afraid to share out loud in front of  a group
B.  Some just aren't spending time with God in a daily quiet time
I did this to confirm what I already suspected.

So I acted, even before the meeting, I went online to my "go to" resource center, LeaderTreks.  I found a 4 week daily devotional journal, "I am a Servant".  The whole focus on this devotional book is about servanthood which is perfect, in my mind, to do before a mission trip where we are going to serve.  All it can do is enhance our trip experience and help us prepare our hearts. 

I'll let you know after the trip if I think doing this together as a team for 4 weeks leading up to the trip was effective or not.  My guess is it will be.  Anytime you can put a resource in the students' hands you increase your odds of them actually doing it.  Granted some won't but some will and those students will be the difference makers on the trip and in their own youth group.

My goal is that each team member, even the adults, will be spiritually ready to go and serve and ready to share the love of Jesus Christ.

I handed out the books on Sunday and we start this coming Sunday, the 14th.  Rather than send a long email that some wouldn't read I created a video "email" and sent the youtube link to them in a text.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Saturday Night Youth Group! What?!

This past Sunday was Super Sunday and in the past we have usually had a Super Bowl Party in The Loft for our students.  This party did not draw even our average number of students, often well below our average.  I guess many families have their own parties, which I get.  Some students have friends who have big parties.  Some don't come because mom and dad don't want to drive out at night and pick them up after the game.

This year we had a church outreach happen the same time as Super Sunday.   Two weeks each winter our church hosts our local homeless population.  We open our church up each evening, feed them a hot meal for supper and then they have a warm place to sleep and then a hot breakfast and can pack a lunch before heading out for the day.  Several local churches take turns doing this outreach during the winter months.  Because of some past complication and also to respect the privacy of these guests we normally do something off campus with our students on that Sunday night.  This year with the Super Bowl we thought we would try something different.

Saturday night we gathered together and focused our youth group gathering on prayer.  I taught on the model prayer Jesus gave us.  Then we went around to different stations and prayed together.  Following this time of prayer we had an hour of hang time in The Loft as we normally do with some delicious pizza (donated by a local pizza business).

Our numbers were about the same they would have been for a Super Bowl Party.  The time of prayer was awesome.  It is great to hear students pray out loud for each other and for specific missionaries our church supports.  We had some big poster paper and they wrote prayers of adoration on the paper.  It was a really good time together for our core students.  I'm looking forward to doing something similar next year, perhaps focus the whole time on missions and have some different stations like the prayer stations.

Point of all this rambling is this:  Don't be afraid to try something different or something new.  Don't be afraid to kill off an annual event or tradition if that event or tradition wasn't accomplishing it's purpose.  If it works great!  If it doesn't work, well, now you know.

Another upside is for the first time in the history of my family I was able to be home and our family had our own super bowl party.  My kids were excited and we ate some great party food.  We tucked them in at our normal time and then my wife and I had a date night watching the rest of the game.

Friday, February 5, 2016

That Feeling in the Pit of Your Stomach

No!  It's probably not that you are just hungry. 

I was walking out of FCA at a local high school on Wednesday morning.  As I was heading to the parking lot I passed a number of students rushing in so they wouldn't be marked tardy.  Among those students were two guys who used to be faithful attenders at our Student Church.  I of course smiled and said "Hey" to them.  They had big smiles and said hi to me and and asked me how I was doing.  As they each walked away the feeling hit me in the pit of my stomach.  It wasn't the blueberry Dunkin Donut I just consumed in FCA.  It was the questions.

When you come across a student(s) who you haven't seen in a while at youth group do the questions start rolling through your mind?  What do you think when a student walks by you and that student used to be at youth group faithfully every week and went on every event and trip?

I'll be totally transparent.  It bugs the heck out of me!  I don't like it!

Years ago when moments like this would happen I would start to question everything I was doing in youth ministry, even question if I was fit to be a youth pastor.  It would gnaw at me.
You probably ask these same questions:

What am I doing wrong?
What am I not doing?
Does youth group suck because of me?
Am I a terrible leader?
Did I say or do something wrong?
What could I have done to stop this from happening?

The focus becomes self.  We start judging ourselves.  We think it's about us.

Four things to remember youth worker:
  • We are not God.
  • We are not the Holy Spirit.
  • We are not their parents.
  • We cannot force a student to be a disciple, it's their choice.

Watching these students reminds me of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13.
  • Some students will hear the gospel but they just won't get it.
  • Some students will receive the gospel and be excited but never grow deep roots and they wither.
  • Some students will receive the gospel but then the stuff of life pulls them away, priorities get out of whack.
  • Some students will receive the gospel and grow and flourish and produce fruit in their lives.
What do we do then?
  • Keep teaching the Bible, sound Biblical truth and applying it to life today.
  • Model a growing, vibrant faith.
  • Keep investing in students' lives and building relationships
  • Most importantly pray.  Pray for our students by name, specific prayers.
  • Don't blame yourself when a teen chooses to walk away from their faith or when a parent doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to say, "this is what we do in our home and as a family."

Stay in the trenches.  Keep ministering to students.  Don't allow Satan to sidetrack you with self doubt about your ability to minister to students.

The bonus is ten years down the road and you run into that teen who is now an adult and a parent and they are actively involved in their church and growing their faith.  You never know what is going to stick and then later help them correct their direction in life.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Mission Trip Prep Time

(When taking care of passports I feel like an international spy who keeps multiple identities in a shoe box under a loose board in a safe house)  

This week my mind has been on our upcoming mission trip.  So I decided that even thought our mission trip is still about 50 days away and with the trip on my mind now would be a great time to work on the trip.

We are traveling to the island of Eleuthera.  Our mornings and mid-days will be spent doing work for Camp Bahamas, helping them with upkeep of the campus.  Our afternoons will be spent at the  park in Tarpum Bay settlement doing outreach with the local kids.

I started with contacting people to join my support team.  In just a matter of hours I have people already joining my support team.  Each team member has to build their own support team consisting of both people who will pray and people who will give financially.

When I got to the office I organized two binders for the passport copies.  Sunday night at our team meeting (meeting about once a month) we collected the passports.  I then made 2 copies of each.  One binder will stay locked in the church office and the other will travel in my carry on.

The passports now have stickers on the back with the individual's first name to make it easy for us to hand them out at the airport and then we collect them later.   When we arrive in Eleuthera we will collect all the passports until the time for the trip home.  Hopefully we won't hear, "I don't know where my passport is."

I created a 6 page document that has all the details the parents and students will need to know:
Travel itinerary
Packing lists
Helpful tips (especially for the newbies)
Schedule, etc.

I double checked our airline tickets just to make sure we are good to go.  I then filled out the form that Southwest requires for group travel with everyone's information.  Next I pay the balance on our group rate with them.  Southwest is much easier to work with and a better deal for group travel than the airline we used last year.

I've ordered our pre-trip devotional journals and they should be arriving shortly.  I also ordered our trip journals as well.  Check out LeaderTreks for some great resources for mission trips.

Next up I order Bibles for each person on the team to use on the trip then we will highlight our favorite scriptures in the Bible, write a note to whoever ends up owning it and leaving the Bibles at the camp when we depart.

Luggage tags, craft supplies, snack supplies, game supplies, and food supplies is all we have left to do to prep for the trip but that will wait until another day.

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