Friday, June 30, 2017

I'm Getting Refueled

I have been to the big national conferences. They were fun, I learned some stuff. But Refuel Retreat has been a totally different experience. If you get $$ to go to conferences or continuing ed I strongly urge you to check this out.

Here's why:
As youth pastor you are the point person, in the lead, the buck stops here, in your church's youth ministry. We cannot lead on empty. Big ballrooms full of free giveaways from youth ministry corporations don't matter. Break out sessions are great but not if you have no clue on the vision God has for the student ministry you lead. How can you lead others if you aren't leading yourself? Curriculum based conferences are good in helping you lead the curriculum but what if you are tired, spiritually and physically?

Wednesday I booked my airline tickets and my hotel room. I'm so thankful for a church that recognizes the value of sending staff off to learn and grow and connect.
This will be my third Refuel retreat. Each time I discover something new about myself and my relationship with Christ. Each time I come home with a road map, a plan, some direction where to lead our student ministry.

I have seen a huge shift in student ministry over the past 7 to 10 years.  In days of old to say we have youth group and pizza and students would flock to the church. In the past we would announce "sign up for camp" and students would sign up. Several years ago there were not so many different things vying for our students' time.  Families were not as busy as they are today.

I'm looking at our student ministry. When that 6th grader graduates high school I want him to know how to live out God's word in his life, I want him to understand who he is in Christ Jesus, I want him to realize his connection to the church and serving Christ. That's the kid who will go off to college and connect with a local church and continue growing in his faith.

How is that going to happen? Deep discipleship, someone(s) walking along side of the student challenging them in their faith, investing in their life, holding them accountable. Not every student wants this or is willing to do what it takes to be discipled. But there are some in every student ministry who are ready and those are the students who will be future leaders in the church, serving, on mission, making a difference in the world.  We only get our students for two hours a week at student church.  What are we going to do to make the most of that time?

“But Andy, if we focus on discipleship who students won’t evangelize.”  I agree that their has to be balance in fellowship, discipleship, mission, ministry.  I also know that a fully devoted follower of Christ, a disciple, will share their faith with others.

In order to lead this type of change in student ministry from event driven, youth group hanging out time, to purpose driven discipleship focused I need wisdom and guidance, I need my thinking challenged, and I'll experience this at Refuel Retreat.

Who wants to join me at Refuel Retreat?

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

My Mission Trip Experience

I just returned last week from the island of Eleuthera.  On the island there is a Christian sports camp, Camp Bahamas.  Camp Bahamas is reaching Bahamian youth with the love of Jesus Christ and the gospel.  The nation of the Bahamas is in what I would call a dangerous position.  Last year seventy-five percent of all child-births were to singe moms.  75%!!  Sixty-five percent of the nation is under the age of 25.  I look at those two stats and see a nation’s strong need for Christ, young men need to know what it is to be a father, and as the pastor in the Bahamian church we attended said, not the “village ram”.  

Our student ministry now has three trips under our belt to this little island of rock and coral.  I witnessed our students’ lives impacted once again by witnessing children living in poverty.   Our team worked hard at the camp helping the staff get ready for their camp that starts next week.  In the afternoon our students led an outreach in the local settlement park, like a mini vbs.  Great experience for our team and I’m praying they bring that heart for serving back home and think of ways they can do similar things in our own community.

Each evening we had our team meeting and devotion/worship time.  I asked the students on the last night to share some things they learned about themselves, spiritually, impactful, etc.  This of course caused me to think about myself and what I learned.

I had a few days on the trip where I didn’t feel well at all.  I couldn't do much of anything for a few days of the trip.  For me, personally, this was very hard.  I didn’t want to sit and watch our team working and do nothing myself.  When you are on an island with no hospital or doctor you really have to listen to the advice of the camp nurse.  So sitting in the shade and “supervising” is what I was told to do.  When this was going on I was frustrated and disappointed.

On the last day I was thinking about the trip and evaluating the week.  I came to three realizations:

1.  I’m dependent on God.  I was in a position where the only thing I could do was to depend on Him.  I was out of control of what was going on in my body.  I couldn’t run up the road to the doctor’s office.  I was, as I always am, totally in His hands and dependent on Him.

2.  When we build ministry teams on our own personality rather than build a team of leaders we set ourselves up for crisis.  Our team had several team meetings over several months.  We covered: unity, flexibility, focus, discovering how God has wired us to serve and lead.  The result of these meetings and training was a team that jumped in and did what needed to be done without being under someone’s thumb or waiting for me, as their leader, to call all the shots.  Our team was a team of leaders and our students excelled in doing what needed to be done.

3.  Team chemistry is vital to success.  For the most part our team functioned in unity and worked together.  On every mission trip by Wednesday (mid-trip) everyone is tired, exhausted and this can play into how we respond and react to each other.  We had a short team meeting after lunch on Wednesday to remind everyone to respect each other and be aware of our own emotions and how we respond to others on the team.  When on the mission field in another country or even here at home, those we are serving and working with are watching how we interact and treat each other.  It’s important they see Christ in all we say and do.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Your Summer Ministry Checklist

Welcome to summer, everyone! For most of us, summer is a super busy season filled with camps, mission trips, amusement park days, retreats, service projects….the list goes on. We love these events, but they require a huge time investment on top of our normal planning and weekly programming. With all the busyness that comes with this wonderful season of sunshine and pool parties, let’s make sure we don’t forget what’s most important.

Read more of my recent blog post for LeaderTreks

Thursday, June 1, 2017

What's in it for the church?

Keanae Congregational Church, Keanae, Maui, Hi.

Whenever someone is trying to sell me one something I naturally ask “what’s in it for me?”.  Same goes with your church.  You may be in a church culture that has been solidly rooted in the idea that the staff does the ministry.  “I drop my money in the plate each week so we can pay you to be the one that stays up all night with the middle schoolers at a lock in.” 

I had the great blessing of living on Maui for several years.  A person may not understand  the attraction of going to Maui but if I pull out the photo album and start showing pictures of Maui the person will go “oooohhhhhh.  I want to go there.”  There is an attraction to the tropical especially when we start showing pictures of palm trees and crystal blue water and drinks inside of a hollowed out pineapple.  

Same thing can happen with student ministry once we start painting a picture of what student ministry is about.  People often think of us like cruise directors, we plan all the fun.  We need to share the stories of life change so the church can buy into more than just financing our position but invest time and talent/giftedness into students’ lives.

Active volunteers on a student ministry benefits the church.  Our church is healthier when we are serving.  We are taught in the Bible that we are expected to serve one another and we can’t be healthy as a body if we aren’t following God’s command to serve.  So the church will experience spiritual growth as our members roll up their sleeves and dive into ministry and that’s huge!

It will benefit our church by improving our reputation in the community.  When your town hears about, sees, and finds out that you have a group of adults who are investing each week into the lives of teens your church will be viewed differently by those you are hopefully attempting to reach.  When parents, not connected to a church, hear that your church is heavily invested in making a difference in teenager’s lives this will make your church more attractive to those parents.  Your church will benefit by growing.

There is the benefit to the church that involvement brings.  When a team serves together there are relationships built and fellowship happens.  Involvement is like a glue when it comes to keeping people from sliding out the back door of the church.  The tighter the team is, the stronger those relationships grow then the stronger the church will be.  Better involvement is what every pastor wants to see in the church body.  As you build your team other ministries in the church will take notice of what is going on and it can become infectious.  Soon the other ministries want the same type of fellowship that is built among the student ministry team.

Team building benefits the church because it boosts spiritual growth.  As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. (Proverbs 27:17)
As team members discover the joy of using their spiritual gift in the church the team members grow stronger in their relationship with God.
As team members realize their passion and see their passion expressed and involved in changing lives they grow stronger in their relationship with God.
As team members realize that the abilities they have acquired through life can be used to impact a teenager’s life they grow stronger in their relationship with God.
As a team members personality starts to shine through and be used to influence students for Christ the team members relationship with God grows stronger.
A team member, who as a child experienced the heartbreak of watching their parents split up, sits down and cries with and prays with a student who is experiencing the same grief in their life and the team member realizes that God can use them to help bring healing to a student that team members relationship with God grows.
As individuals in the church grow spiritually the local church grows stronger. 

The student ministry team can influence the impact and spiritual health of the entire church body.

Made the Top 40 Youth Ministry Blogs

My blog made #30 out of the top 40 youth ministry blogs according to I don't know what that means but "thanks!&quo...