Friday, January 29, 2010

Why you must think through student leadership development

You can't really be effective in student ministry (or any ministry) without thinking through and implementing leadership development. Yes, that's a black and white statement but I believe it to be true. By leadership development I mean shepherding people in a process to discover, develop and utilize their God given gifts and talents. This is true of adult leaders and students.

Last night there were 14 high school students hanging out at our house. They're members of our students advisory team. Our "SAT" consists of students who are nominated by the student body and then chosen by the student ministry staff to provide input and direction to our student ministry.

At Irving Bible Church we are in the beginning processes of becoming a ministry that has student leadership development as a major part of it's dna.

What we did last night wasn't rocket science. We ate pizza, drank Dr. Pepper (I hadn't done that in a while), prayed together and discussed how we can better love students. In addition to all that we had a little discussion on why humility is one of the main characteristics of Godly leadership.

So, finish this statement,

"you must think through and apply students leadership development to your ministry because..."

I would love to develop a top 10 list and then discuss some ways to implement. This idea of student leadership seems to be wide open. Of course there's no formula or perfect way to help students serve, but surely there's some wisdom and best practices we can share.

Thanks for any input.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Humility: Final Thoughts

This morning I finished my study / meditation on humility. I wonder if I'm more humble now than I was when I began focusing on humility last month? I'm not sure.

One thing is very true, there is more awareness and repentance; aware of thoughts and words that reflect my prideful heart. Learning to walk in humility is a lifelong journey. As always I'm aware that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.

I definitely don't want to be rejected by God and without a doubt I'm a man in need of grace.

BTW, I would recommend the book, "Humility, True Greatness" by C.J. Mahaney. I honestly know nothing about him or his ministry but God has used this book as a spotlight to expose pockets of pride in my life. For that I am grateful.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Catch them doing something good

"Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me"
True or false?

A couple days ago I was challenged in my meditation on humility to give up the comparison game. By the comparison game I mean trying to measure up against others as a source of building up my own ego and pride. It's a work in process.

One way to do this is to look for the grace of God in others. This spurred some thinking on how those of us who work with students should use our words to encourage and build them up.

Many students are used to hearing statements that communicate what's wrong with them. "You're not good enough", or "you'll never amount to anything", "why did you screw up again", are statements they hear often.

What if we as youth workers made it our mission to find the good in them? Students are image bearers. They're created in the image of God. Even if they're not followers of Jesus yet there are still nuances of their life we can discover and brag about.

Here's an example. Scobi is a kid who just recently became a Christian. Of course there was behavior we weren't thrilled about, but Scobi was a servant, even before he knew Jesus. If we or the children's ministry needed anything, Scobi was there to help. Those kinds of things were constantly pointed out to Scobi in a desire to encourage him and show him that he is created in the image of God and is designed to live in relationship with him. Do you have students you can catch doing something good?

As you think about how to encourage and edify students, here are some thoughts...

* Be a truth teller.

As you know students can sniff out insincerity. When you compliment a student make sure it flows out of a heart of authenticity.

* Be specific.

"Hey, I really like you", or "I think you're cool", isn't as powerful as, "do you know what I love about you? You're a really good friend to those around you" Or "the other night when I saw you hang out with that girl who was alone, that was really cool".

* Be intentional.

Many times I'm quick to see the bad. When I focus on the negative I miss the good in someone. By God's grace I hope to grow in this area of catching students doing something good. I have to be purposeful and intentional about this until it becomes second nature.

* Be public.

If it's appropriate, share your compliment when others are around. It models a heart of encouragement.

The words we use can result in life or death. May we use our words to breathe life into the hearts of students who have only heard the language of death. Remember, words mean something and the statement "words will never hurt me" is a lie from you know where.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Humility: Practical Steps Day 4

"We mortify pride and cultivate humility by identifying evidences of grace in those around us"


Are you the kind of person that thinks critically? In other words, do you almost always see the glass half empty? I sure am. It's easy for me to ignore the good and go right for the bad.

As I was reading this morning I was reminded that we should look for God's fingerprints in the lives of people instead of having a critical spirit.

Here are a few thoughts...

* Criticism of others is many times a result of playing the comparison game. Comparing ourselves to others is almost always self centeredness and pride.

* We should try to catch others doing something right. Most people don't see God's hand in their own lives, they see the sin. We have the privilege of pointing them to the grace of God in their own life.

* It's easiest to ignore grace and criticize those closest to us.

In interacting with you, what is your spouse more aware of- (I would add children) evidences of grace you've noticed, or the need for change and growth?


Today I'm going to actively look for God's grace in the lives of others. For those of us in student ministry this is especially crucial. When you hang with students tonight be a truth teller. Notice what God is doing in their life and let them know about it. They won't ever know unless you tell them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Why Will is my hero

I just got off the phone with one of my church youth leaders. Will is an older guy (like me, he's to my left) who teaches some type of computer class in a junior college. I actually have no comprehension of what he teaches, I'm not that smart.

He's one of my heroes because he loves Jesus and cares well for students.

He teaches 5 classes and is taking, yes, taking 2 classes himself. With all that he still finds the time to spend with some 9th grade guys. He takes them to McDonalds, picks them up for church and then takes them home. He's the kind of leader I would like to be.

More than anything he just wants to be faithful, to get up early to spend time with Jesus and do his best to live an authentic life.

Will, thanks for who you are and what you do.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Humility: Practical Steps Day 3

I have to be really honest, my last post was kind of a challenge to think through how to prepare our hearts and minds for sleep. We spend 1/3 of our life asleep, so it makes sense we should think about it. I've done nothing, zero to put anything into practice. Somehow the last few nights I've found myself barely able to get undressed before falling asleep. This is something I really want to put into practice. If you or anyone you know does this well I would love the input.

This morning was spent thinking through how meditation on the attributes of God and meditating on our sin impacts our walking in humility. I've often thought that my pride was simply forgetting how great God is while forgetting how desperate I am.

I love this quote by John Owen...

"There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men...A due consideration of God, and then of ourselves. Of God in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject and sinful condition"

That just about says it all. Here's some questions...

When was the last time you took time to meditate on God's attributes, to drink in how transcendent and beyond us he truly is?

When was the last time you took a deep look into the sin of your own heart, how deceitful and selfish you are?

Spending time in meditation on those 2 truths helps us on the journey of walking in humility.

May we be people who fight to see God and ourselves clearly.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Humility: Practical Steps Day 2

Many of us think of participating in spiritual disciplines in the morning, that's typically my thought process. The rest of the day is spent fighting to remember and ponder the truths God revealed to us from our focused time of prayer and meditation in the morning.

Honestly, I leak. God may say something to me in the morning but by my 4th cup of coffee it's forgotten. Ok, I'm trying to grow.

Mahaney brings out some interesting perspective on not only meditating on truth throughout the day to battle pride but a thought process before we go to sleep. He reminds us that we spend a third of our life asleep. That's a lot of time. Our need for sleep is in direct contrast to God's self sufficiency. He will "never sleep nor slumber".

Typically I fall asleep to sports center or playing "words with friends", perhaps there are more beneficial things on which to meditate?

Thomas Watson says this...

"When we have done anything praiseworthy, we must hide ourselves under the veil of humility, and transfer the glory of all we have done to God".

I like that, especially in light of a thought process as we fall asleep. You see, I either get stressed for not being good enough or gloat for something good I did. Both thought processes are focused on self and essentially prideful.

So, think about his. What were you thinking about as you fell asleep last night? Were your thoughts in alignment with truth? Is there anything you should read or think about as you fall asleep that might direct your thoughts for the next hours of rest?

Needing anything is humbling, especially needing sleep. It's a gift from God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

He Was Youth Ministry When Youth Ministry Wasn't Cool

Last week I had the privilege of attending meetings for the ministry council of the National Network of Youth Ministries. Recently I was on staff with NNYM so it was kind of like a homecoming for me. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. One of the greatest joys was seeing and spending time with my friend Paul Fleischmann.

Transition in ministry is rarely done well, especially when one begins and leads a ministry as long as Paul has. Paul has been the president of NNYM since it began and is now in the process of transitioning the ministry to new leadership. As I watched him over the last few days I was amazing to see God's grace as Paul ushers in leadership for the future.

Let me say this, reaching teens has always been "cool" but Paul started in a time that was very different. In the early 80's there was less training and opportunity for those seeking careers in student ministry. For years Paul has led the National Network in giving the clarion call for youth ministries to work together to reach students for Christ.

I love to hear Paul talk about the "good 'old days" when a few met in 1979 in Colorado Springs. They met to think, pray and dream. They talked about what God was doing in the hearts of students around the country and how they might work TOGETHER to more effectively serve students and student ministry.

In 1981 a simple document was formed to communicate a commitment to personal, family and ministry values for those who love students. This same covenant has been signed by youth leaders for almost 30 years.

Paul is very unassuming in his leadership and has never sought credit for himself or the National Network. It seems he's always been most comfortable behind the scenes, influencing others to love students the way has has for decades. That's very refreshing in a day when self promotion and hope for stardom is fairly common.

I've been blessed to be under Paul's leadership. There's much to learn from men and women who have served youth ministry well over the last 30 years. Join me in honoring Paul and those like him who have paved the way for many of us who have a clear calling to love student to Jesus.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Humily: Practical Steps Day 1

As I continue to read "Humility, True Greatness" it seems Mahaney is moving to some practical ideas to battle pride and pursue humility. It's always touchy to talk about practicality because it's easy to focus on the doing instead of the being. He does a great job avoiding moralistic rules by continuing to focus on God's grace and motivation even in the midst of some practical application.

One idea that really resonated with me today was the idea of staying focused on the cross. How can I become arrogant when I think about what my sin did to God? The last couple of days I've been preparing to talk to our students about the mystery of the Lord's Supper. The Lord's supper is an important way for us to remember and focus on what Jesus did for us on the cross.

Listen to what John Stott says...

"Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary"

When is the last time you meditated on the cross? When is the last time you participated in the Lords Supper and truly remembered what he did on your behalf?

May we be people who live at the foot of the cross, remembering what Jesus did and why he did it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

So Far So Good

So, yesterday I resolved to more intentionally serve others here at the ministry council in an effort to battle pride. You know, I think Jesus was really on to something with the serving thing.

Today's a new day. Today I'm conscious of the truth of Jesus' atoning death. Without his death I cannot walk in humility. He is not only the example of humility his death and gift of the Holy Spirit are the power to walk in humility.

By the way, as always I'm blown away by the people God has used to love teens. There are people here who have given their lives to reach kids. They've been doing it for much longer than I have and God has used them in incredible ways.

It humbling to be a part.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Greatest

Pride is “a groundless thing” and “a brainless thing”. “It is the maddest thing that can exist”.

C. H. Spurgeon

It’s kind of ironic that my third post on pride vs. humility is being written on a plane rapidly moving towards San Diego. It’s ironic because there are very few situations that bring out pride more than being around other youth leaders from around the country. It would seem that people who work with student ministries should be very humble. We’re not rock stars or even senior pastors. We’re just youth pastors.

Perhaps others are far more humble than me, but inevitably when I get around others who do what I do (student ministry) there’s always comparison. I long for others to think I’m great.

“Are they better than me?” “Do they have more influence than I?” “I bet I have more experience”. When I was a little younger it was all about “I bet I have more potential”. It’s all really ugly isn’t it?

By the way, sometimes pride comes out in the opposite way. It asks questions like, I’m not as good as they are, am I? Different but still very focused on self.

The disciples really did the same thing. That gives me a little comfort. Questions like, “who is the greatest?” and “Jesus, can we sit at your right hand?” came up. I’m not quite as open with my pride. I tend to keep it a little more silent. James and John struggled with the same thoughts I do. They were interested in power and position. They longed to be famous.

Jesus’ response to James and John about who can sit at his right hand turns what most think of greatness totally upside down.

“whoever would be great among you must be your servant”.

There it is. True greatness is not about being served or famous or powerful, it really is about serving. The way to deal a fatal blow to pride and arrogance in our lives is to intentionally pursue becoming the servant of all. Jesus is not only the greatest example of this humility, he is also the one who gives the power to live it out.

So, the next 2 days in San Diego, instead of comparing I’m going to ask Jesus for the grace to serve, looking for ways to esteem others and more important.

Here's where it gets tricky. Will I become proud of the way I serve? Uhhgggg!

Monday, January 4, 2010


Yes, I'm still on the journey of meditating on humility but something grabbed my attention yesterday I had to think about.

Do you have regrets? Are there things in your life you wish you hadn't done or activities you wish you had accomplished by now? I hate the word potential and the older I get the more the word kind of bugs me.

You see, potential speaks of what might be, not of what is presently happening. It's a great word for a freshman quarterback who is going to be great when he's a junior and has more experience. The older one becomes the greater chance that person won't reach their potential. That causes regrets.

I have all kind of regrets.

I wish I had loved my kids better.
I wish I had been more pure in my thought life.
I wish I had handled money better.
I wish I had been more relational with the people I've worked with.
I wish I had spent more time alone.
I wish I had sought the heart of God more.

Regrets look at the past and cause guilt and shame. If I understand the gospel correctly it teaches that Jesus makes all things new, present tense.

Here's what caught my attention yesterday.

"I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that HE loves me".

Jesus has loved and is loving me perfectly. I don't have time to regret. Jesus is making us new and is using us to love those around us.

May we be people who forget what is behind and press forward. We don't have time to dwell on the past, there's too much at stake in the future.