Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year - Make the Most, 2 Thoughts Part 2

Sometimes we need a good excuse to stop, remember and dream.  The new year season gives us a great excuse.

Yesterday's post was about the importance of stopping to remember.

Happy New Years - Make the Most - Remember

Maybe 2012 is a year you would love to forget, but even in the midst of tough seasons those of us who are Jesus followers can get a glimpse of God's goodness.

After taking time to look back it's exciting to look ahead and dream.

Dream -

This is a little different than New Year's resolutions.  Resolutions aren't all bad but it seems planning might be more effective than promising.  As you dream about 2013 maybe you should go ahead and make sure you have time committed to follow through on your dreams.  For me this simply means making sure my dreams somehow make it to my calendar.

Here are some areas you may dream / think about.

What is your plan for personal devotions / worship next year?

It's a good idea to have an area of focus for your time alone with God.  For example, this year I read the Bible all the way through (almost, I'm a little behind).  Next year I'm thinking about focusing on the writings of Paul.  Two years ago I spent the year in the Psalms.  It's helpful for me to have a plan and keeps me more consistent which is a non negotiable for me.

If you're married and have a family, what are your dreams for your wife and kids?

My baby daughter will be graduating from high school this year.  Although my 3 sons no longer live at home they still very much need their dad.  This year Julie and I celebrate our 25th anniversary (I have to bring it).  Here's the bottom line, there's a lot to think and dream about.  What about you?

Is there an area of your life that's been neglected and needs attention?

I'm not sure what this might be for me (I'm spending time tomorrow to think and pray) but it's a question I will definitely be asking.  Sometimes we move so fast we don't stop long enough to ask God about the areas left unattended.

There are so many areas to think through.  Allow God to guide your heart and mind wherever he leads.  Be open to the areas he wants you to focus, you may be surprised as God continues to lead you on this journey.

Don't feel pressure to perform.  God's glory is the goal and he is the one who does his work in us to accomplish what he wants.  We simply get to joyfully be along for the ride.

Ephesians 3:20, 21

20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

So, enjoy your time!  Let us know what you learn and experience.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year - Make the Most, 2 Thoughts

I love New Year's celebration.  From the parties to boldly stuffing my eyeballs with college football.  It truly is one of my favorite holidays.

In the midst of all the festivities it's a great time to carve out an hour or two to remember God's faithfulness over the last 12 months and look forward to the next 12.

So here's my challenge, push the pause button on ESPN and use this time as an excuse to remember and dream.


Open up your calendar and look at all God has done in you and through you the last year.  Take time to really meditate and remember.  If there are pictures on your phone or Facebook, use them to jog your memory.

Don't be a Varuca.  Many times we can be like spoiled children, we receive God's blessing but take little time to remember and thank Him for his goodness.  It's good to give thanks and remember that every good and perfect gift comes from him.

Maybe 2012 is a year you would like to forget.  Even in the midst of loss and pain we can see flashes of God's goodness.  Remember.

I don't know about you but I have some regrets in 2012.  Perhaps there are attitudes or actions you regret, use this as an opportunity for confession and repentance.  God may use this time of remembrance to apply his mercy and grace in healing ways.

No matter the circumstances it's good to stop, remember and infuse the grace of God in your thoughts.  Be prepared to be surprised when you give time and space to reflect on all that happened in 2012.

Tomorrow we'll discuss dreaming / looking towards 2013.

And hey, Happy New Years!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Home For The Holidays - College Ministry Idea

This is isn't your grandfather's family reunion.

For the third year in a row we had rowdy college students at our home for our "Home for the Holidays" gathering.  It's a simple way to gather with students and see them reconnect with friends and yes, it really feels like the family reunion you would WANT to attend.

We don't do much, build some fires get some food and let them connect.

Our high school seniors are also invited.  We want them to begin the transition to college and see that although they may go away to college they still have a church family in Dallas.

By the way, can I tell you how rewarding and humbling it is to see and hear what God is doing in the lives of student?  Also seeing them connect with former small group leaders is priceless.

So, consider your own version of "Home for the Holidays".  It could end up being your favorite time of the year.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Student Ministries - Coming Together As ONE

Last night was an amazing time for students in our area.

Several churches moved away from issues that divide to focus on what it means to be ONE and have unity in Jesus.  There were Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Bible Church and others who participated in a time of worship, giving attention to the Word and prayer.

Actually the event wasn't that complex or "cutting edge".  In fact, the simplicity was beautiful.

The worship team was from the host church but the rest of the stage team were youth pastors from visiting churches.  A pastor from the Bible Church spoke about Jesus' prayer for oneness in John 17 then another pastor led the students through a short prayer experience.

This is why the time was amazing.  In a day when many churches are competing and driven by consumerism and getting nickels and noses, the ONE service taught students how important unity is to Jesus.  Sure, each of these local churches have important distinctions, but it was nice to place the differences on the back burner and see Jesus as preeminent and the one who unites.

This service could only happen because the youth workers in our area trust one another.  Youth workers in our area only trust each other because we have relationship with each other.  We have relationship with each other only because we spend time together.

We're all busy, but we understand that being together is much better than operating alone.

Are you connected?  What if God used you to be a uniting force for student ministry in your particular area?

The best way to get started is to check out

The National Network of Youth Ministries exist to help youth workers like us connect with other youth workers in our area.  You don't have to be alone.

By the way, perhaps last night was an answer to Jesus' prayer, "make them one".  I believe He was praised and pleased.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jumpstarting Student Leadership - The Big Game

As youth workers, part of our responsibility is to help students discover how God has gifted them and longs to use them for his glory.  If students are never in a ministry role or in a position where they recognize they need God it could be difficult for them to experience the joy of God working in them and through them.

Believe me, when a 17 year old student knows she is going to stand before her peers and teach the Bible, she becomes very needy!  Her time in the Word and her prayer life take on new meaning.  Our job is to remind students over and over again that Jesus provides the grace to serve and impact lives.

There are many approaches to student leadership development.  Most are good and should be considered and utilized from time to time.

An idea that results in great momentum and focus in student ministry is the "big game" approach.

As God gives vision for an event, gathering or trip, consider the possibility that students could be the leadership / servant team for that event.

For example, last month our ministry hosted a student led worship service for middle school and high school students.  Students led in most aspects including...

Developing a theme / topic for the event
Developing a prayer strategy
Creating a fun / welcoming environment

We began preparation 2 months in advance by meeting with our student advisory team.  After explaining the purpose for the event we discussed the message they would like their friends to hear.  As a team we settled with the idea that "true love and acceptance can only be found in relationship with Jesus".

As students settled into these teams they understood that God was going to use them to bring powerful ministry to their peers.  They planned, they prayed and then they led a great event fueled by God's grace and their excitement.  The student ministry staff didn't have to beg them to come and bring their friends, the students led the charge with an all out social media blitz.

Other "big games" may include leading VBS, a local service project or a mission trip.  This approach creates great morale, momentum and focus for a group of students as they realize they're not just watching ministry they're actually preparing for ministry.  They own it, they promote it and they get to enjoy the beauty and mystery of God using "the weak things" to accomplish his purposes.

Remember, this approach isn't about the event, it's about the process!  This is relational discipleship.

The "big game" gives an excuse to help students discover, develop and utilize their gifts.  As you meet with them and point them to Jesus they begin to lean into him and their faith is strengthened.

I've seen God use students in remarkable ways!  As students lean into Jesus and experience him working in them and through them they become more aware and dependent on the gospel in every day life.

So, if your wanting to get student leadership started in your context consider a "big game" approach. Be prepared to be surprised and amazed at how works in and through your students to bring glory to himself.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Put Me In Coach! 3 Questions To Ask When Considering Student Leadership

Your students are dying to get off the bench and into the game.

Why is church is the only place students are required to simply "sit and listen".  On school campuses students are involved in the school newspaper, sports team, band or color guard.  They're given responsibility and asked to perform at the highest level.

At church?  They're asked to sit, listen, learn and someday IN THE FUTURE make a difference.  They're told they are the church of the future.  Why is that?  What are we afraid of?

Of course it takes a lot of time and energy to prepare students for ministry but the benefits of taking the time and energy to help students discover, develop and utilize their gifts in ministry are extraordinary.

You might want to dream about adding or ramping up student leadership in your student ministry.

Here are 3 questions to consider.

1.  What can students do that you're currently doing?

The quick answer may be EVERYTHING, but you have to start somewhere.

What about coaching a student on how to give announcements at your ministry gathering?  Do you have students who are interested in video?  Maybe you should consider asking them to put announcements on video.  Let them be creative.

Here's the point, if your students have little to no leadership involvement in your ministry think of a couple of areas they can serve and start there.  From a prayer ministry to up front speaking, students can be coached to do incredible ministry.

2.  What can you learn from students?

When is the last time you sat with a few key students and asked them what they love about their student ministry?  If you don't ask them often if may be difficult for them to think that way.

By getting advice from students about their ministry consistently you learn a ton about how ministry is impacting students and you also create a great sense of ownership.  As old people we shouldn't automatically assume we know what's going on in the hearts and minds of our students.  It's a good idea to ask.

3.  Why take the time, energy and risk when you can do it better yourself?

Ok, that's a loaded question.  First and foremost I believe we have a Biblical mandate.  If you're a student ministry pastor or youth director Paul says your responsibility is to "equip God's people for works of service".

That verse is usually reserved for adults, but Paul makes no distinction.  Students are "God's people", therefore as pastors shouldn't we dream of ways we can prepare them to serve the church body and the world?

By the way, my experience is some students are far more gifted and effective than I am in certain areas of ministry (for some of you that's no surprise).  As a youth pastor there is little more satisfying than seeing students excel and be used by God to serve.

So, please, please, please consider how to get students in the game.  By developing a strategy that includes student leadership your ministry morale will increase, your discipleship will deepen and your entire church will benefit.

It's what God has called us to do.