Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tobogganing, Pizza and Jesus

This morning at breakfast club we discussed how easy or difficult it is for us to talk to our friends about our faith. Each student there had talked to someone about Jesus in the last week but admitted they felt ill equipped to enter into serious dialogue. This morning I ran across this little story and feel motivated to equip our students to whimsically and gently share Jesus.

Here's the story...

My name is Trevor, I'm 21 now but its a funny story how I discovered religion.

I was 11 years old when I was invited to a Christian church youth group by a friend I had met a year earlier after moving to a new town, So I went. We went tobogganing, and snowmobiling. I was having a fantastic time!

So dinner came around and pizza was ordered. When the pizza got there, everyone got plates and sat down. Thats when everyone held hands and prayed. I had no clue what was going on. When they finished I had already started eating, and asked my friend Drew who everyone was talking to. He replied "Are you serious?" I said ya there is no one else in the room. He said "Jesus!", I replied "who is Jesus?"..... "GOD!" he said. So I said " I can't see him." and he said "no one can."...... "So how do you know he's there?" I replied. His best answer was "My parents have taught me that you may not see him, but hes everywhere and helps everyone." I replied with a quick "I don't believe in ghosts." and he couldn't reply.

To this day he has questioned his religion. He still believes but he has trouble believing. Hopefully one day he will join reality.

What if Trevor showed up at your youth group?
Any ideas about how to better prepare our students for these kind of discussions?

I'm all ears.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Gospel is for Students

The gospel is mysterious, beautiful, powerful, simple, complex, ancient and relevant all at the same time.

Do students really understand the gospel story? I asked one of our high school students the other day how she would describe the gospel. She said, "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John". Yes, not a totally wrong answer but not the answer I was looking for.

In a world and culture that focuses on performance, it is crucial that students understand and embrace the gospel of grace. Many of us have heard about and thought about "moralistic, therapeutic deism". The reality is most students (and adults) believe their relationship with Jesus is dependent on how they behave. That's not the gospel of grace. In fact, moralism is the enemy of the gospel.

We're spending three weeks with our high school students sharing the story of God's redemptive work and what it means to their lives. We desperately want to share the story of the gospel in a way that is true, engaging and practical. Here's the breakdown.

The Gospel is for Salvation

The first week we're simply sharing how the gospel fits within the context of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. In our church building we have 4 beautiful and huge paintings that reflect each piece of the story of the Bible. Our high school students will gather at the foot of those paintings as we focus and unpack the gospel within the context the whole story of the Bible. Yes, the gospel is more than those 4 words, but placing it in context will give students a greater understanding of how the gospel fits within the whole story of the Bible.

Here's how I typically share the gospel for salvation...


The Gospel is for Growth

To be honest this is a perspective few understand, including me. I've been struggling to understand the gospel's place in my sanctification. Many believe we are saved by grace but we grow by works. That is absolutely untrue. We long for our students to understand that growing in their faith isn't about behavior modification but a day by day dependence on Jesus. Paul makes this so clear in his letter to Titus.

Titus 2:11-13

11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,

God's grace saves and it "tutors" us in saying "no" to ungodliness and "yes" to godliness.

The Gospel is for Sharing

We long for our students to share the gospel by the way the live and love. If Jesus is truly transforming their lives then the natural overflow will be to care tremendously for their friends. It rocked my socks off the other day when a student told me he wanted to know how to more clearly share Jesus with his friends. The transforming power of the gospel cannot be hoarded, it must be freely shared.

Yes, I know this series isn't as down to earth and sexy as others, but what could be more important than students understanding more fully what God has done on their behalf and how their belief in the gospel can transform their lives and the lives of others?

If you work with students how do you explain the gospel story?

How could we make these sessions more creative / engaging?

What are we missing as we share the gospel?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Push, Pull, Tug, Tow - YSPalooza


Our student ministry is committed to encouraging and equipping Godly adults to rub shoulders with students. Because of this philosophy there is nothing more important to us than our staff serving and encouraging adult leaders.

Now saying that, we often have mission drift. Mission drift is when you know what is most important but you spend time, money and energy focusing on something else. This often happens often when ministry is judged by numbers and how happy parents are with their kids going to Sunday School.

Sure, we do other important activities in our ministry but our "special sauce" is relationship. Although we often find ourselves "drifting" a little we always return to our calling to unleash a team of adult leaders to serve students.

Encouraging our adults to attend YSpalooza is a no brainer for us. There's no way we could get them to a full NYWC or other national retreat but having them exposed to other youth leaders will be a shot in the arm to our ministry. They're going to experience phenomenal encouragement and training from some of the best student ministry voices in the country. And what could be more inspirational than worshipping with other like hearted youth leaders in the same room?

I can't wait to debrief with them about what they hear and experience. With all of us engaging in the same training it will give our entire team a common language to think about how we better engage the hearts of our students.

So, if your within 219 miles of Dallas I hope to see you and your team there. My hope is that this short weekend will strengthen youth ministry all over our region.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Our Student Ministry is Observing Ash Wednesday

We're fortunate to be in a church that embraces some of the more ancient practices. Believe it or not our students are really drawn to the modern ancient aspect of worship. The beauty, depth and mystery of it all really engages their hearts in profound ways.

Tomorrow night IBC is hosting an Ash Wednesday service. For the 3rd year in a row we're really encouraging our students to participate.

Our part (student ministry) will be pretty simple. We'll be meeting with high school students and middle school students separately to share a short explanation of the tradition and why it can be meaningful for us. The focus on the depth of sin and beauty of God's grace is a powerful message for our students who lean towards moralism.

We'll then join the rest of the body in our Ash Wednesday service. It also will be simple with a short message from Isaiah 58, opportunity confess sin by writing some of our sins on a black cloth and then the imposition of ash.

These symbols serve as physical expressions of our sin which deepen and expose our desperate need for a saviour.

As we enter into this season of bright sadness my hope is that our students would be conscious of their sin and need for a saviour every day. It's beautiful that this season doesn't last forever. We look forward to the end of our lenten fast with the celebration of our Lord's victory of sin and death on Resurrection Sunday.

So, take advantage of this powerful time of year to share with students the beauty of Jesus' sacrificial work. You still have some time before tomorrow night to think it through.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teen Age Dream - The Final Talk

Ok, I hope this will be my last post on teen dating for a while. The way high school students approach romance is a huge deal. It effects all their relationships, relationships with friends, relationships with family and yes relationship with God.

You can look here to see an outline of the entire series.

Teen Age Dream - A Look at Teen Romantic Relationships

We did our final talk last night on romantic relationships and and I finally gave them some practical advice. We were careful not to say "thus saith the Lord" because I don't want some sort of extra Biblical legalism. In fact, these final points simply flow from wisdom from the Word and experience.

I'm finding from my life group leaders that my main points frustrated some of them and made others angry.

Of course there was much more said, but here's the gist of the outline.

7 Oh, let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem,
by the gazelles, yes, by all the wild deer:
Don't excite love, don't stir it up,
until the time is ripe — and you're ready

1. Yes, but not yet…
Be patient

2. Say no to exclusive relationships

It seems high school relationships are just like marriages without the ring, vowes and sex, well, sometimes without the sex. When you think about it, when we are “going with” someone or “facebook” official it’s just like a marriage. You can cheat on the other person, you can break up with that person….

3. Remember there is strength in numbers
a. It’s much safer from a physical temptation perspective
b. It allows Christian community to speak into the relationship
c. It slows down emotional intimacy
d. It prevents that weird go crawl into a hole dating thingy

4. Remember your heart belongs to Jesus.
He is the only person who can ever truly “complete” you.

Zeph 3:17
17 The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing."

I shouldn't be surprised students are frustrated but it does make me a little sad. It exposes how important it is for us to gently lead students through the journey.

May we show them and lead them to the passionate love of Jesus. Then and only then will they find satisfaction in him and nowhere else.