Posted in Discipleship, Student Ministries

An open letter to Youth Pastors and Adult Leaders…from a former Youth Pastor

To every Youth Pastor and Adult Leader serving in Student Ministry…

For nearly 14 years I was in full-time ministry as a Youth Pastor. Being a Youth Pastor was my passion and calling…still is actually. I can still remember when God placed in my heart a passion to minister to teens.

Anyway, that is not really the reason for this letter. I could go on forever sharing about my passion and what I love about Student Ministry, as well as my ideas and goals and dreams for students and Student Ministry, but I will refrain from that. The reason I am writing this letter is to remind you of what really matters the most in Student Ministry.

Students. Students matter the most. Not the programs, the big events, the games, the coolness factor of the Youth Center, or even how great the lessons and small group discussions are.

Don’t get me wrong, those are all part of Student Ministry, and they all need to be done well. There is nothing wrong with programs, events, games, lessons and small group discussions, or even creating a cool Youth Center where students can feel comfortable. But ultimately, the students are what truly matter.

You can have a successful Student Ministry without a cool Youth Center, crazy fun games, big events, or fancy and well-organized programs. Lesson and small groups I will say are a must at some level…but remember that even those are only successful if the students know that you care about them and really do want to help them grow, as well as are willing to listen to them.

The students are by far what matter most

Make sure you are willing to listen to students. Listen to them as they share their dreams, ideas, struggles, and fears. Listen to and talk with them about their doubts and questions about faith and this life.

Find ways to be involved in their lives in little and big ways. Show up at their games and activities to cheer them on and show them support. Grab a bite to eat with them so you can build a relationship with them. Let them know you are there for them if and when they need you to be.

Don’t just preach at them, but rather invest in their lives and disciple them. Show them what scripture teaches, but also help them apply what scripture teaches in their everyday life. Be transparent (appropriate transparency obviously) with them about what you’re learning in your life.

Make the Student Ministry about them. Let them know in tangible ways that they are what is most important in the ministry, that you truly care for them. Tell them you are proud of them. Show them you care about them. Treat them with respect. Pay attention to them.

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Here is why I’m sharing this with you and reminding you of this…

Because I’m now on the other side, for the first time since High School. I’ve been working in Student Ministry since I was a freshman in college, and I’ve been full-time since graduating college 14 years ago (18 years total of ministry). But life has brought changes, and I am currently not the guy planning the events and seeking to invest in students lives. I am now the parent praying and desiring that you will care for and invest in my own children’s lives.

As a parent I know and take seriously my role as father; I am not looking to pawn off my responsibility to raise my kids or disciple them to follow Christ in their own life. I know that is my God-given responsibility, and I take it seriously. But I also know that my children need more than just me to invest in their life.

I know that being their father as God intended is crucial in their development…but having other solid Christian adults in their life who care about them is crucial as well.

So I want to remind you and encourage you to make sure that the students are what matter most in your Student Ministry. Keep your eyes open, so you can see what is going on in their life and thus can care for them accordingly. Train yourself and your leaders how to properly and effectively connect with and invest in students. Make that the priority…because students need you to.

As I said, I was in full-time ministry for nearly 14 years. I knew all of what I’m reminding you. I knew the importance of it, and did all I could to invest in students lives. And I’m not suggesting you don’t know or seek to do all that I’m reminding you of. But now that I’m on the other side, I see the importance of it in a whole new light. So I’m reminding you again.

Sincerely,

A parent first, and former Youth Pastor second

 

P.S. – these principles can be true in all area’s of ministry. The application might change, but the principles remain. So feel free to share with those in Children’s Ministry, College Ministry, and all various forms of Adult Ministry.

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Posted in Mission Trips, My Thoughts, Student Ministries

Guatemala 2015 Mission Trip recap

I had the privilege and honor of leading a team of 12 from Calvary Bible Church to work with AMG, and specifically our friends the Wilson’s, during the week of April 27th – May 3rd.

We began by going to the AMG headquarters in Guatemala for lunch. After flying hours to a foreign country, we had the local specialty for lunch…pizza 🙂

Team first day

Then after lunch we went and saw an area of the city where people live and work at the dump. Yes, live too. If you look closely in the pictures below, you can see some small tents set up…those are where families live. They live by pulling food and items from the trash to either sell or use to live themselves.

It was a very sobering sight to see, that is for sure. The team mostly just stood in silence as we looked at this scene.

dump houses at dump

The majority of our week was spent at Camp Canaan, which is an AMG camp. One of AMG’s big ministries is that they have schools for kids. The kids in their schools are kids that have been sponsored by someone else, which gives them the opportunity to go to school. And then part of their school experience is that they get to attend camp for a week.

The week we were at Camp Canaan, there were 101 kids attending. The kids there were ages 11-13, and many were street kids who were being sponsored by someone through AMG. The first night there 4 of us were able to share our testimonies with the kids in their chapel building, which was really cool.

2 of the days we were at the camp, we shared a Bible Story with them; we acted out the story of Joseph while it was narrated. After sharing the story and a short lesson of what we can learn from that, our team did a craft with the kids. The first day’s craft was tie-die bandannas, and the second day’s craft was making a picture frame for a camp photo we had taken of all of them the day before.

One of the days there I had an opportunity to have a long conversation with the camp director, and he shared a really cool story with me. He said that after the second craft was done, a kid came up to him crying. He asked this kid why they were crying, and they proceeded to tell him that the camp picture we gave all the kids as part of their craft was the most beautiful gift they’d ever received.

Think about that for a moment…a simple photo is the most beautiful gift they’d ever received. WOW!

skit with kids skit scraft with kids

Our big project while at the camp was to plant avocado trees for the camp. The purpose of these trees are to provide food for the camp, as well as give them a way to make some income if needed by selling some of the avocados they grow.

I initially expected this project to not be that difficult…but it turned out to be much hard than I had thought. The ground we were digging holes to plant these trees was very hard, as we were there at the end of dry seasons so it had not rained much for the past several months. We had to dig holes around 3 feet deep and a foot in diameter, so it was a lot of digging. We were also in the hills, so it was not flat ground. That made wheel-barreling the good dirt we were using to plant the trees with to the holes we had dug somewhat difficult at times.

I was extremely proud of our team and how hard they worked. Our first 2 days at camp we worked hard from breakfast till lunch, and then did the Bible Story and crafts in the afternoon. On the 3rd day we spent the whole day working on the tree project, and the last day we worked all morning until we had to pack up and leave camp. In that time we were able to plant 46 trees!

working on hill      digging             avocado trees

We spent the last bit of our time in Guatemala visiting Antigua and hiking the volcano Pacaya. After a physically and emotionally tiring several days at Camp Canaan, that was a great way to end our time in Guatemala.

There is SO MUCH MORE I could write about this trip, this is just a brief recap of the week. But to keep this from being a short book, I will refrain from writing it all. Just suffice to say this was one of my favorite mission trips, and God definitely spoke to me personally through this trip. It was an amazing trip, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this team.

Team at Pacaya

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Posted in Media, Messages, Student Ministries

How should Christians respond…

This year in the Student Ministry we have done a few lessons where we ask the question “how should Christians respond…” We look at current issues happening in our culture, and we discuss how we as Christians should respond to those issues. Ones that we had done earlier in the year were “Terrorism and the Christian Response” and “How Should Christians Respond to the issue of Slavery and Human Trafficking“.

This past Sunday (4/19/15) was another such lesson. We asked the question “how should Christians respond” with regards to the issues of Abortion and Homosexuality.

Abortion and Homosexuality

Below is a video of the lesson taught that night, as well as the small group questions the students spent time discussing. The scripture passages we looked at for this lesson were Genesis 1:27-28, Romans 1;26-27, Psalm 139:13-16, Exodus 20:13, James 2:10-11, Exodus 20:3-17, Romans 2:1, Romans 3:23-24, and John 13:35.

 

Small Group Discussion Questions

  1. Our culture is in the midst of a big battle over the issues of Abortion and Homosexuality. Many want it to be ok and accepted, while others believe they are wrong.
    1. Why do you think these are some of the major issues in our culture today?
    2. What is difficult about growing up in a culture battling over these types of things?
    3. Does it make it easier or harder to deal with these issues if you are a Christian?
  2. Have you ever had conversations with friends about these things? If so, how did those conversations go?
  3. Is it easy or difficult to balance what the Bible says about these issues while also making sure we treat people with love like God calls us to? Why?
  4. What are Ephesians 2:1-9 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 saying? How do these verses apply to the way we as Christians should respond to these issues?
  5. Any other thoughts/comments/questions about this?
Posted in My Thoughts, Student Ministries

Benefits of networking in ministry

This past week, I had the opportunity to network with several people in different ministries. It was awesome! I love being able to connect and network with others who are also serving in ministry.

I will take opportunities that come up to network whenever I can. It is important when we work in ministry that we network with others who also work in ministry. Ministry is not easy, and we need to be willing to connect and work together.

In ministry, networking with others in ministry can be very beneficial for a few different reasons.

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1. It helps you think outside your box

Everyone has a specific way of thinking about and doing things. We all have a box so to speak. Some people have larger boxes than others, but we all have a box. It is beneficial to hear thoughts, ideas, and perspectives from others within ministry.

When we network with others and we talk about ministry, we gain new perspectives and ideas. It helps expand our own box, which will benefit us personally as well as the ministries we work and serve in.

Even when we don’t always agree with everything others in ministry say or think, it can still be very beneficial to network in order to have our own box expanded. It’s unhealthy to think and act as though we have all the right ideas and perspectives when it comes to ministry.

2. It keeps the Body of Christ connected

Even though we are all working at different churches and ministries, we are all part of the global church…we are all part of the Body of Christ. And we need to act like it in how we stay connected with other local ministries in our area. It is beneficial to have local churches and ministries connected, both for the church as well as for the community.

When we stay connected with other ministries in our area, we are able to work together to reach our community, rather than trying to do it on our own. This gets the Body of Christ working together as it should. And, the community around us will see the Body of Christ being unified, which is a great testimony.

Even pastors from churches that are of different denominations should work to stay connected when possible. God is so much bigger than our man-made denominational lines. We should not allow walls and lines created by man to divide the Body of Christ.

3. It provides a safe place to share

In the famous words of my Senior Pastor… “I’m a mess, you’re a mess, we’re all a mess.” We all have struggles, difficulties, and things we need to share and talk about with someone else. Those in ministry are no different (despite what some people might think, or how some ministry leaders might act).

Unfortunately as a ministry leader, it can be difficult to find someone to be completely open with. Ministry leaders, while we should be honest and transparent, do need to be careful just how much we share with people in our church. And even the staff we work with, we still have to be careful how much we share. Sometimes we just need to vent about the ministry we are in, but we shouldn’t do that to those in the church, or to the other ministry leaders we work with. 

It is beneficial to network with those in ministries outside of the one we work in…because they can relate to what it’s like to work in ministry, and because when we develop deep enough relationships, we can share things we couldn’t otherwise with those in the ministry we work. We all have things we need to share, so we need to find someone who we can safely share those things with.

Posted in Media, Messages, Spiritual Warfare, Student Ministries

What is Spiritual Warfare and how does it affect me?

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The lesson in my Student Ministry on January 18th was about Spiritual Warfare, and specifically how we are affected and involved in that battle.

Below you will find a video of the lesson I shared as well as the Small Group discussion questions that the students spent time discussing after I shared the lesson.

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Small Group Discussion Questions

1. Share any initial thoughts or questions you have about this topic of Spiritual Warfare.

2. Did Woogy share anything about Spiritual Warfare that you hadn’t thought of before? Share what it was.

3. A battle or war is always between more than 1 side. In this Spiritual War we are talking about, the 2 sides are God and Satan.
-Read the following verses: 1 Peter 5:6-9, Ephesians 6:11-12.
-What do these verses tell us about the battle between God and Satan?

4. What are ways we can stand strong in this battle for our heart and mind? Let’s keep reading in Ephesians 6 to get some ideas: read verses 13-18.
-What are these verses telling us concerning how we stand strong in this battle?
-Let’s read a couple other passages that can help us know what to do to stand strong in this battle: 1 Peter 1:13-16 and 2:1-3. What are these verses telling us concerning how we stand strong in this battle?

5. Take a few minutes and write down on the provided piece of paper what your “Battle Plan” will be (examples: “I will read my bible 5 times a week”, “I will pray regularly”, “I will not watch TV until I read my Bible and pray each day”, “I will ask a friend to keep me accountable”, etc).

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I shared at the end of the night, after the lesson and discussion was over, that we will always have questions in this life…either about something we don’t understand, about what we are to do, etc. Asking questions is a great way to grow and develop in our faith as we struggle through this life. We are all on a journey in this life, and we are at different places in that journey as we fight this battle.

I have created a page where you can share questions you might have, as a way to provide a place for you to share your questions and seek answers. I am not claiming I know all the answers, but rather I’m offering to help you in your journey as you seek to grow in your faith.

To share your question, click here.

Posted in My Thoughts, Student Ministries

Confessions of a selfish Youth Pastor

I know, I know, a pastor is not supposed to admit he is selfish. A pastor should be above struggling with things like selfishness, pride, distractions, and discouragement.

Ok, that might not necessarily be true, but I have actually heard that before from people…which by the way is ridiculous if anyone thinks that a pastor is above being human since a pastor is still a human.

However, I think many times we as pastors often have those thoughts and feelings about ourselves as well. We have it in our mind that we have to be perfect, because we have a congregation of people who are looking up to us and need us to be the example of how to live for God at all times.

Yes, pastors are to live as an example for those whom they are shepherding and teaching. Yes, pastors need to make sure they are constantly checking themselves to make sure they are living a Godly life, both privately and publicly. Yes, pastors are called to a high standard. All that is true.

But pastors are people too. Pastors, even the best ones, can be selfish or feel pride or even get distracted and discouraged. That’s right. Those who stand before others and teach God’s Word. Those who are at all the church functions and events. Those who spend their days serving others or setting up opportunities for others to serve. Those who spend hours putting together their messages for the week. Those who are pastors also have times when they feel selfish, feel prideful, get distracted, and even become discouraged.

I know, because I am a pastor and I feel all of those ways at times.

I can feel pride when I focus on the numbers of students attending and getting involved in the Student Ministry. I can feel pride when a parent tells me they are attending the church because of the Student Ministry.

I can feel selfish when others in the ministry are getting recognition for something that I had a large part in but don’t receive recognition for as well. I can feel selfish when I see someone else getting a lot of attention.

I can get distracted when I have more things to take care of than time in my day/week to take care of them. I can get distracted when I’m going going going all the time and forget to take breaks.

I can get discouraged when I am trying to do something one way, but it turns out another way. I can get discouraged when I don’t like how something goes down or when I don’t feel like I’m having an impact like I want to.

I don’t like admitting I feel those ways at times, but if I’m being honest, I have to admit it because it’s the truth.

Why? Why can I feel those ways?

Because I am human. Because I can allow my focus to be on me rather than on God and the ministry. Because I can forget to rest from time to time. Because I want things done my way. Because I am a sinner. Because I am a human same as all other humans.

Looking at the numbers of students attending and participating is not a bad thing, it is encouraging. But I have to make sure I keep my focus in the proper place, or else pride can easily creep into my heart.

Seeing others receive recognition for what they do is great, and I want to set others up for success. In my ministry, I want the students and adult leaders to be receiving recognition for all they do…because they deserve it. But I have to make sure I don’t allow selfishness to weasel its way into my mind and heart.

As much as I love what I do and enjoy working hard on a regular basis, I still need to make sure that I am taking breaks from time to time. I need to make sure I allow myself to take a sabbath regularly, otherwise I overwork myself and begin to easily become distracted because my brain is overly tired.

Ministry rarely goes exactly as planned, but that’s life. If my focus is on doing things a certain way so that I accomplish what I want to accomplish, I will get discouraged. But if I remember to keep my focus on simply serving God by serving people, and remember that God alone is the one who changes lives, then I won’t get discouraged as often because I know God’s plan is perfect, even when I don’t understand it.

I’m a human, and I’m a pastor. I am imperfect, just like everyone else. But God has called me at this time to be a pastor.

May I, and may all the pastors who read this, remember to keep our focus on God and not on trying to be perfect. May we not create impossible standards or allow others to put them on us so that we are weighed down by them. May we remember that we serve God, who chose us in our imperfect state, by serving and loving the people around us. May we always strive to grow stronger in our own faith, and work on those areas we are weak in. May we be honest and real with ourselves and with others. May we not pretend to have all the answers, but always be willing to learn and discuss. May we simply follow God and what he is doing in the lives of people, and invite those we are called to shepherd to join us in this amazing journey that God has us on.

Posted in Media, Messages, Student Ministries

How should we respond to the issue of Slavery and Human Trafficking

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Recently in my student ministry we had a lesson and discussion concerning the issue of Slavery and Human Trafficking in today’s world.

Below is a video of the lesson from our Sr High Student Ministry. It contains audio of me sharing as well as 2 videos that I used as part of the lesson; one is from David Grant with Destiny Rescue and the other is from David Zach, who is the lead singer of Remedy Drive and also has worked in connection with The Exodus Road.

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During the Small Group portion of the lesson that night, these were some of the questions and passages of scripture that the students read and discussed concerning how we should respond to the issue of Slavery and Human Trafficking:

  • When you consider the numbers shared in the video of how many are enslaved around the world (estimated 20-30 million), how does that make you feel?
  • Is this problem of slavery and human trafficking an issue we should care about? Why or why not?
    • After a moment of sharing, read and talk about the following verses
      • James 1:27
      • Matthew 25:35-40
      • Proverbs 14:31
      • 1 John 3:17-18
    • Based on what these verses are talking about, is the problem of slavery and human trafficking an issue we should care about?
  • What are some ways that we, living here in New Hampshire, should respond to this issue? Realistically speaking, how can we get involved in helping those enslaved?
  • If there is time left, spend a few minutes praying for those who are enslaved all over the world, as well as those who are going into dangerous places to rescue them.

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I shared 3 main ways with my students that they can respond to the issue of Slavery and Human Trafficking…

First, you can pray for those who are enslaved, as well as those who are actively seeking to rescue them. This seems like an easy cop-out type of answer, but it’s really not. Prayer is extremely powerful, and should never be neglected or seen as a cop-out answer.

Second, you can support people and organizations who are working around the world to rescue slaves and stop the injustice of human trafficking. You might not be physically able to go over and rescue a slave, but you can help send someone over to do it. Organizations you can partner with include International Justice Mission, The Exodus Road, and Destiny Rescue.

Third, I shared with my students that one of the biggest reasons that Slavery and Human Trafficking exists is because someone decided they were better than someone else, or see some people as lesser human than them self, and thus chose to oppress people and use them for their own gain. Those putting others into Slavery for different reasons are profiting from it…they are using others for their own personal gain.

Matthew 7:12 tells us to treat others as we would want them to treat us. You want people to treat you with dignity and respect, so you need to also treat others the same way. You might not be able to go physically rescue someone enslaved, but you can start a movement of treating others with dignity and respect, and watch that spread. There are many in today’s world that are treating other people wrongly, make sure you are not one of them. One big way you can respond to this issue in our own life right now is to make sure you are setting an example of what it looks like to treat all people with dignity and respect.