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Tips For Preaching To Youth

Posted: 
Friday, June 5, 2020

There are many resources out there to help you improve your preaching. Books, podcasts, videos, courses, and Youth Min NZ does a communicators course, if you're interested. Rather than cover the same ground as others have covered, I thought I would do some thoughts, ideas and tips that might help you prepare to preach.

Don't prepare in isolation
Young people live in a particular context and we need to understand that as well as we can. We can then connect the Word of God with their context. I know some who even invite people into their preparation process. They ask another communicator to look over it and they may ask a couple of young people to look over it.

Be yourself
There is always a temptation to model yourself off of other effective communicators, but it always feels a little off. Now by all means study great communicators. Find the principles that they use (pace, humour, tone, eye-contact etc) and apply them to your own preaching style. So adopt principles not styles.

Record and review yourself
You will be your own worst critic but it is helpful to review yourself. Your learn if you have mannerisms or habits that are distracting or detracting from the message. Recording and reviewing ourselves is a helpful tool in this. I recently had a conversation with a young leader that was MCing a youth service and encouraged him to record and listen to his inflections. He had a habit of his tone going up at the end of a sentence, which made him sound uncertain and more like it was a question than a statement.

Find your sense of humour
A sense of humour is a great tool in communicating to teens, but do your best to avoid awkward or off jokes. Funny personal stories help young people relax and get to know you a bit more.

Express yourself with passion
It is my observation that to a certain degree, young people equate passion with truth. If you are bored or boring then you are irrelevant or untrue. If you are passionate and engaging then you are worth listening to and considering. As much as a long-term faith should not be based on emotions, I do believe that emotions are a gateway that God can use into the heart and soul of young people. So express your passion for Jesus.

Trust God with the results
It is not uncommon for preachers who thought they did well to receive very few comments or compliments. And when they think they bombed, they get people giving feedback about life-change and timing. All we can do is pray, prepare and deliver with the skill and anointing we have, and trust God with the outcomes. I also lean into Acts 2:6, on the day of Pentecost. There was baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in other tongues, but the NIV says that the people heard them in their own language. It wasn't so much what was coming out of the mouths, but what they were hearing. So if God wants to get a message through to someone, then he will. I remember a number of times when someone approached me after I preached and they talk about a point that I didn't remember making. Now my preaching can have ADHD moments where I go way off script, but I didn't remember making the point they said I made. Did the Holy Spirit interpret my words into something they needed to hear? I don't know, but God is capable of it.

Stay sensitive to God
I consider myself a pragmatic pentecostal. I know some who lean more pentecostal and would say "just rely on the Holy Spirit". And I know others who are preparing weeks ahead. I like to try and fall along the spectrum. My philosophy is to pray and prepare before hand, then listen to the God's leading on the day. I don't remember a day when I scrapped a whole message, but there were definite shifts in the focus that came on the day. There is something about the corporate presence of God that can bring a revelation or perspective. Also, inspiration can come in many forms and environments. So while preparing and in the moment, stay sensitive to God's leading.

 

Those are some thoughts I had about preaching. What random tips would you add?

Use Your Gifts To Serve Others

Posted: 
Thursday, June 4, 2020

Speaking To Teenagers book

Posted: 
Wednesday, June 3, 2020

When Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins get together on a project, you know it is going to be good.

Synopsis

Get ready for a crash course in effective communication. More than just a book on how to "do talks," Speaking to Teenagers combines the experience and wisdom of two veteran youth ministry speakers, along with insightful research and practical tools, to help you develop messages that engage students with the love of Christ and the power of his Word. Whether you¹re crafting a five-minute devotional or a 30-minute sermon, Speaking to Teenagers is essential to understanding and preparing great messages. Together, Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins show you how they craft their own messages and give you the tools to do it yourself. They'll guide you, step-by-step, through the process of preparing and delivering meaningful messages that effectively communicate to your students. Fields and Robbins walk you through three dimensions of a message - the speaker, the listener, and the message itself ‹ and introduce you to the concept and principles of inductive communication. You¹ll also get helpful tips on finding illustrations for your talk and using them for maximum impact, as well as insights on reading your audience and effective body language. As Speaking to Teenagers guides you toward becoming a more effective communicator, you'll find that this book's practical principles will positively impact the way you view, treat, and communicate to teenagers.

 

This book is broken down into 3 sections. Section 1 is How to Think about Effective Messages, and covers aspects related to your character, the purpose of preaching in building a bridge to people with God's truth, and understanding your audience. Section 2 starts to look at creating messages that stick. They use STICK as an acronym for Study, Think, Illustrate, Construct & Keep Focussed. Section 3 covers delivery of the message.

This is a helpful book for those who want to or do preach to teenagers.

Book can be purchased from:

Dogs Don't Prepare You For Parenting

Posted: 
Tuesday, June 2, 2020

June - Practical Skills Month

Posted: 
Monday, June 1, 2020

Our focus for the month of June is on practical skills.

Youth ministry is more than just hanging out with young people. It can involve a number of other tasks and responsibilities. There are loads of them, but this month we thought we would focus on skills like preaching, running games, planning and running events.

So check out our posts this month for some skills and resources to help you.

If you have some skills that you want to write about or want us to write about, then let us know.

Links for Week 30/5

Posted: 
Saturday, May 30, 2020

Below are a series of links to articles and resources that I have seen this week. Hopefully they are helpful. If you have any helpful blogs or resources then let us know and we can monitor them for content.

Youth Ministry

 

Leadership

 

Culture / Current issues

 

Soul Care

 

Family related

 

    COVID-19

    The Peace Of God

    Posted: 
    Thursday, May 28, 2020

    Some Ways To Partner With Parents

    Posted: 
    Friday, May 29, 2020

    We have already covered some aspects of this earlier in the month in our post Starting A Parent Ministry. But what are some other ways you can partner with parents?

    Communicate the good things about their youth
    So often we only notice the exceptions to the normal, either the misbehaving or gifted. And it is only usually the misbehaving that we raise with parents. But parents love to hear about the good things we see in their young people. So make sure you observe and see who is regular, who is committed, who shows kindness, who gets involved etc. Then mention it to their parents when you see them. Let them know that you saw their young person showing an admirable attribute.
    Your positive comments about their son or daughter will be encouraging for them.

    Get to know them
    The default conversation with parents can be about their young person, it is the most obvious thing that we have in common. But get to know the parents. Where do they work? What are their hobbies and interests? What is their story? What movies/TV/music etc do they enjoy? Get to know them and do your best to remember the answers for future conversations.

    Encourage them
    Find ways to encourage them personally, and not just as parents. Write cards, make up little gift packages, send texts etc. Acknowledge their other talents and gifts. If they are serving in other areas, then go out of your way to give genuine compliments.

    Help strengthen their marriage/family
    It is not uncommon to hear of couples who either separate or have to rediscover each other once the kids had left home. Their time and energy was so focussed on the kids that they lost each other. Families can also become very busy with weekly activities and they miss out on quality time. So help them strengthen their marriage.
    You may need to partner with another department in your church, but run a marriage event. Maybe an enrichment evening, day or weekend, that gives couples a chance to connect with each other. In my opinion, a healthy family is centred around a strong marriage first. It is from that, that the children are loved and nurtured. Families that revolve around the children are not healthy.
    You can strengthen families by having family centred events as part of your calendar. Events that bring the family together rather than separating them out. An amazing race or car rally type event with families as teams. Or a quiz night that requires multiple generations. Or a father/daughter dance type event. And there are many other ideas out there.

    Help them win
    We need to help parents win. I know your heart is to see young people reached and discipled, just remember parents are generally partners in that vision, not opponents. Now I understand that the programs and events takes time, effort, prayer, energy, money etc. . We obviously believe that what we run will help the youth we lead, we wouldn't run them otherwise. So when a young person misses our youth program because of a family commitment, we need to support the parents. And not just a token gesture but full support. Rather than tell the young person what they missed out on by not being at youth, ask them about what they were doing and who they were doing it with. Reinforce godly family values. Don't make it hard for the youth to honour their parents. So rather than you having to be the hero, let the parents be heroes and support their decisions.
    Give them resources as well. If there is a good book/website/podcast you've read about parenting or culture or marriage etc, then share it with the parents. Every body wins when the family is strong.

    Consult with them
    Before you make decisions about programs or events, especially big ones, get some input from parents. Whether it is the timing of your camp or the content of a more sensitive talk, give them a chance to have input.
    A number of years ago, we had a youth camp that was planned to start just after Christmas and end just after New Years. With that being a common time for companies to shut, we ran into some issues. Many parents had planned family holidays. There was tension with some families and some youth didn't make it to camp. Every camp since then has been planned to start after 10th January. By then parents are back (or nearly back) at work and they want their kids some where safe. Had there been a discussion about the timing with parents earlier, then we could have avoided the issue entirely.

    Recruit them as volunteers
    Parents can make great volunteers, we just need to give them a chance. They can drive, they can cook, they have homes, they have other resources and connections, they care about their youth. Now I understand the tension with this. Youth group can be a chance to have a break from their parents in a relatively safe environment, so you do need to be careful how you proceed with this. You also need to gauge why the parent is getting involved.
    If you have parents who are overly involved in their young person's life and volunteering is a chance for them to monitor and "control" them, then be wary. You might need to find volunteer positions that keep them away from their child. If the relationship is healthier, then there are more options. I would still try and put them in roles that don't directly connect to their own young person. The value of church and youth is that you can have other caring adults connecting with teens, and that is healthy for all involved.

     

    Those are some of my thoughts about ways you can partner with parents. What do you think? What ways have you tried? What worked and what didn't? 

    The Source For Parents

    Posted: 
    Wednesday, May 27, 2020

    The Source For Parents is a website created and populated by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller – The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan and his wife Lori live in Northern California.

    The website has articles, podcasts, resources and more that includes:

    • Youth Culture
    • Video games
    • Music
    • Media
    • Parenting Curriculum

    He as written books for parents and youth ministry, and you can sign up to receive his newsletter. He has a parenting one and a youth leaders one at The Source For Youth Ministry

    These are worth a look and passing on to the parents of your youth.

    Introducing Baby To Pets

    Posted: 
    Tuesday, May 26, 2020

    As we near the end of our month on parents and parent ministry, a funny cartoon that we should all live by.

     

    Blog tags: 

    God's Guidance From Moment To Moment

    Posted: 
    Monday, May 25, 2020

    In 2 Samuel 5:17-25 we see David as a new king, facing off against the Philistines in two separate but similar encounters. In both instances the Philistines had entered the Valley of Rephaim as an act of aggression and in each instance David sought the Lord about what to do. God gave different instructions for each scenario in order to bring a victory. And each time David obeyed and won the battle.

    In life and ministry, we often look for patterns, systems and policies that can guide our decisions. We see the same or similar circumstances and we apply a formula to it. It saves us from reinventing the wheel every time. We can think it makes us efficient, because it worked last time, it should work this time.

    Now don't get me wrong. There is a place for systems and policies, they can help us to reserve our energy for more important matters. The issue becomes when we create a formula for something that is not formulaic. Or we create a permanent system for something that should only have been for a season.

    I would be wary of applying formula and labels to people. They are unique and complex beings and while I understand the need for processes, those processes need to be covered in prayer. If we are simply ticking a box without seeking God for his wisdom, insight and grace, then we are not honouring people as Jesus did.

    Be careful of how firmly you hold on to your systems, events and programs. Always be willing to openly review them. Periodically bring your programs before God and ask for his guidance. We can sometimes fall into the trap of making plans and then asking God to bless them, but never ask his thoughts about the plans.

    David engaged with God for his guidance. We are at the great advantage of each having the Holy Spirit and direct access to God. And he wants to be your partner in your life, your relationships, your finances, your ministry, your work etc.

    Take a moment this week to ask God if there is an area of life or ministry that he wants to speak into. Then listen for his answer.

    Links for Week 23/5

    Posted: 
    Saturday, May 23, 2020

    Below are a series of links to articles and resources that I have seen this week. Hopefully they are helpful. If you have any helpful blogs or resources then let us know and we can monitor them for content.

    Youth Ministry

     

    Leadership

     

    Culture / Current issues

     

    Soul Care

     

    Family related

     

      COVID-19

      Working With EGR Parents

      Posted: 
      Friday, May 22, 2020

      So the first thing to explain is that EGR stands for Extra Grace Required. Today's post is about working with parents who require extra grace from us. There are less polite versions of this sentiment, and there are times when we feel less polite about them too. But they are a reality of most youth ministries.

      Don't get me wrong. There are some parents who can be your biggest supporters and a great resource. Many parents that are in the middle. But there are some parents who can challenge us. So how do we do ministry with parents that need extra grace?

      1. Understand that you are not alone

      One of the hardest thing about EGR parents is that we can take it personally. Maybe it is a parent that has expectations around how you should treat their young person. Maybe it is a parent that has constant questions or suggestions that would place an even greater load on you. Maybe it is a parent that questions your suitability. Maybe it is just a parent that monopolizes your time. Or maybe something else.

      We have all had parents in our ministry that are more draining or demanding. You are not alone.

      2. Seek first to understand

      In interacting with EGR parents, you should always try to first understand their perspective. We tend to exist on a spectrum between pastor and leader. A leader loves people but tends to be more problem-solving, decision-making and prescriptive. They hear something and try to quickly resolve. A pastor would tend to sit and listen, looking to let the person express themselves.

      Interacting with EGR parents should initially be more pastoral as we seek to understand their circumstances and perspective. Engage in active listening, where you are not listening for the purpose of formulating your response, but to fully understand. Using phrases like "I hear you saying..., is that correct?", or "what do you mean by that?", or "where did you get that from?"

      Do your best to put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective. Maybe they don't have a good support system, so when they get a chance to speak about their kids or life, they jump at the opportunity. Maybe they or their youth have had certain life experiences that make them view things differently. Maybe they have a legitimate concern.

      So before you disregard a parent, listen and seek to understand.

      3. Make it face to face

      Much of our communication these days is written, whether it is email, text, messenger etc. The problem with the written word is the lack of inflection and non-verbal cues. We interpret the words on a screen or page through our own filters. Filters of past experience, current mood, insecurities etc. People also seem to have less self-control when typing words on a screen than if the person is in front of them. They write things that they would never say out loud to the person.

      So if you receive an email from a parent (or anyone) that has a level of seriousness, take steps for the next communication on the topic to be face to face.

      Don't respond defensively, but simply say "Thank you for this message, I would like to discuss this with you more. When can we meet?" And do your best to make sure that the timing for the meeting gives you enough time to be calm, prepared and have discussed it with your supervisor.

      Written communication is great for information, but never emotion. Dates, times, agenda, location etc are all fine in written form. Interpersonal issues should be done face to face, and if not possible then over phone or video chat.

      4. Find common ground

      Often friction with EGR parents is due to differences and unmet expectations. So if we can find common ground and understand expectations then we have gone a long way to finding a long term resolution. I have seen issues diffused when both parties have agreed on the core belief. They have different strategies but want the same outcomes.

      5. Keep your pastor/overseer informed at every step

      When you have EGR parents, communicate this with your pastor and/or your overseer. They may have insight into their circumstances that might help you show more grace. They may be able to run interference for you and help resolve issues. They may have advice that will help you. At minimum they will now be aware of it and will not be caught unaware if someone raises it with them.

      6. Pray for them

      One of the greatest things we can do for EGR parents is to pray for them. And I don't mean manipulating prayers where you ask God to change them or move them on, but prayers for their blessing. Prayers for peace, faith, hope, love, wisdom, finances, relational blessings. Prophesy over them as the Holy Spirit leads you.

      There are some seasons where we are helping others, and there are seasons when we need help. So give the parents the grace in the seasons when they may need it more.

      7. Be humble

      None of us is perfect and sometimes we see the parent as the EGR, but it is us that needs the grace. Is it possible that there is something you need to grow in? If there are parents complaining about communication, then maybe the problem isn't the parents.

      Make sure you take time to check your heart and attitude. Make sure you take the time to check your systems and ministry. Is there any kernel of truth to a complaint? Is there a way to better care for the parent who needs more time and energy?

      If we remember that we are fallible humans in need of grace, then our interactions with parents (even EGR parents) are improved.

      8. Keep records

      We never want an interaction with a parent to devolve into a major issue, but sometimes it does. We are all broken and that brokenness impacts our relationships. So sometimes it is good to have a record of our interactions. Make this as secure as possible to respect the other parties. Write the notes as early as possible so it is as fresh in your mind as it can be. Share the notes with your overseer as appropriate.

      If there has been a meeting, then it is always helpful to write a draft set of notes that can be shared and amended by the parties who were in the room. Once the notes have been checked, amended and agreed, then you have a record for later reference.

      9. Establish boundaries

      If your EGR parent is in the needy category, and tries to monopolize your time and energy then put boundaries in place. Have a start and finish time to meetings and stick to it, even if you need to schedule another meeting after to have a reason for ending on time. In informal settings have a plan with some of your leaders to interrupt after a certain time.

      If your EGR parent is more on the criticize and complain end, then you equally need boundaries. You have to lead and balance a whole ministry with all its constraints. In these instances it is good to have a strong and supportive relationship with your pastor/overseer. One that supports your vision and programs. But beyond that, find ways to disconnect when you are not in youth ministry mode. Manage when you do and don't check emails, read texts or answer calls. You shouldn't be available 24/7, especially for these types of EGR parents. But don't ignore them completely, just limit the time you give them.

      Guard your heart. Remember why you are serving in youth ministry. If you feel a calling then reflect on that. If you are getting caught up in the details and problem solving, then pause and remember what you enjoy about youth ministry. Think about the wins and what God has done in and through you. In this way you can put boundaries around your heart to help protect it and keep it fresh.

      10. Maintain a clear conscience

      When all is said and done, do all you can to maintain a clear conscience before God. Do your best to show and express love and grace in your interactions. Do your best to not carry unforgiveness or anger. Do your best to not speak ill of people.

      God's grace is sufficient for us in each circumstance. And He has wisdom for us if we ask.

       

      Ministry is both challenging and rewarding. If you need help with a specific circumstance then we would love to pray for you and support you in anyway we can.

      Discipline Your Children

      Posted: 
      Thursday, May 21, 2020

      Raising Giant Killers

      Posted: 
      Wednesday, May 20, 2020

      Synopsis

      As children grow and experience life, they face "giants" in many forms--the hurts, struggles, fears and temptations of the world that seduce countless young people away from their divine call to represent Jesus in both purity and power. It is vital for parents to train children to defeat these giants--to become giant-killers. 

      With honesty, humor, and keen biblical insight, bestselling authors Bill and Beni Johnson help you discover the keys to successful parenting in God's kingdom. "Parents, we rule for the purpose of protection, but we also serve with the purpose of empowering," they write. "We want to release our children into their destiny--that's the privilege of parenting."

      In these pages you will gain the wisdom, kingdom concepts, and practical tools you need to help raise your children to their best.

      You'll discover how to parent to their uniqueness, gifts, and strengths, as well as how you can demonstrate and reveal who God is to your kids. The authors also address pressing issues parents face today, including how to

      • be fully engaged in hearing what the Lord is saying over each child
      • maintain relationship and discipline
      • develop character
      • train your children for worship
      • fan the flame of what God has put in their hearts
      • and more

      No matter what age your kids are, you have an incredible opportunity to shape their hearts, minds, and values. Here is everything you need to help your children walk into the destiny of their lives and see them become the awesome people they were created to be.

       

      I read this book last year because I loved the purpose. We look to not just survive as parents but to grow confident and bold children, who know their God, their purpose and who believe they can change the world. We try to parent with the end in mind, looking to the adults we hope they will become.

      Some notes from the book that I took:

      God's kind of leaders lead best when they live conscious of the following facts:

      • Nothing is impossible
      • God is very personal and is aware of our thoughts and intents
      • We are not God
      • God is not under our control
      • All of us will give an account to God for our lives

       

      If he did not learn to use the weapons himself, he would have to depend on the help of others to be okay. The four weapons are these:

      1. The blood of Jesus
      2. The Word of God
      3. The name of Jesus
      4. Praise

       

      The book can be found:

      Had A Bad Day? Watch This

      Posted: 
      Tuesday, May 19, 2020

      Some of these made me laugh so hard. Sorry for those whose pain caused my entertainment.

      Blog tags: 

      Be An Example To Parents

      Posted: 
      Monday, May 18, 2020

      1 Timothy 4:12 says Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

      Last week we looked at being an example to the youth we lead. This week, let's look at being an example to the parents. In what ways can we be an example to them?

      Respect & Honour - there can be tension between youth leaders and parents sometimes, we can still be examples of respect and honour with the parents of our youth. Do all you can to show respect and preserve relationship. Sometimes this is not easy. Sometimes preserving a relationship is not possible because of the other person. But as much as it is within your ability, speak and act with respect and showing honour.

      Culture - culture is ever changing and it can be hard to keep up. It can also be hard for some to find the redeeming factors of a culture. We can be an example to parents by how we engage and influence the culture of our youth. Not everything in youth culture is bad, but not all of it is good either. We can help parents see the good, and understand how to engage in conversations with their youth about the things that need to be redeemed.

      Faith & Hope - as people who are one step removed from the day to day lives of our youth, we can add some perspective. Some parents can get caught up in a moment or season of crisis. They may lose sight of hope. We can be an example of faith, speaking hope and life into the circumstance. That is not about trying to make it better with Christian cliches, that is about pointing parents to Jesus, who loves their child too. And a God who can redeem circumstances.

      As youth leader's we have the privilege of partnering with God, partnering with parents and serving young people. We won't get it right every time, but we can ask God to help us be leaders that love. Leaders that show grace. Leaders that look and serve, not just the youth but their parents.

      With God in you and with you, you are able to make a difference.

      Links for Week 16/5

      Posted: 
      Saturday, May 16, 2020

      Below are a series of links to articles and resources that I have seen this week. Hopefully they are helpful. If you have any helpful blogs or resources then let us know and we can monitor them for content.

      Youth Ministry

       

      Leadership

       

      Culture / Current issues

       

      Soul Care

       

      Family related

         

        COVID-19

        Hosting A Parent Event

        Posted: 
        Friday, May 15, 2020

        One of the most common ways to connect with parents is with a parent event. It is a great way to connect with and communicate with multiple parents all in one hit. Whether it is an evening, a breakfast or a meeting after church.

        Of course the challenge these days is getting people into the room at the same time and place. Even pre-COVID, people were busy and difficult to coordinate for a combined meeting. But there is benefit in those face to face moments, which is why they are still part of youth ministry.

        Why have a parent event?

        • Connection - connection between youth leaders to parents, and connection between parents
        • Inform - to discuss the youth ministry, programs, events, camp, fundraising etc
        • Input - bring helpful resources or content that will help the parents
        • Buy in - whether to gain support or volunteers, sharing vision and need can be part of a parent event
        • Feedback - sometimes you need feedback from parents 

         

        Organising a parent event?

        The five big things to consider when planning a parent event are purpose, time, place, content and communication.

        Purpose: why are you having this event/meeting? You may be able to achieve multiple aims, but there should be one key purpose. This will help you make informed decisions around other parts. It will also be a crucial part at the end when you ask if the event was a success.

        Time: when will you be holding this event. What day of the week? What date? What time? This is definitely the aspect that you should get good input from parents on, if you want people to show up. There is never going to be one particular time that will suit everyone, so you need to make a decision on when you expect to get the most people there. You also need to choose a date far enough in the future that will give parents time to plan to be there.

        Place: where will you have it? Make sure you find a suitable space that will help serve your purpose. If the main purpose is social then a cafe type setting is probably going to serve you better than a class room. If you are aiming to present information then a space with a large TV or projector may be needed. Make sure it is convenient for the parents to get there at the date and time you have set.

        Content: what will happen? Will there be food and drink? Will there be time for socializing? What information do you need to present and how will you present it? Will people walk away with something in their hand? Will you need people to help present or serve or coordinate? Will I need a runsheet to help coordinate? Will this honour the time and effort parents have made to attend? All these and more will need to be answered to make your event run smoothly and achieve your purpose.

        Communication: how will you make sure that all parents are aware? Remember that they need to know early enough that they can make best efforts to be there. Choosing methods for communication and regularity will help make this more successful. Do as much as is reasonably possible for all parents to have heard about the event multiple times.

         

        Alternatives

        There is value in the face to face interactions when a parents event that is held in person. But in person events have their challenges. So it is worth considering other options. And maybe you plan 1-2 in person events each year and then have a couple of other alternatives at other times. This list will age quickly as not these technologies will be available in 6 months, but the principles should continue.

        Online video chat - tools like Zoom or Skype create an opportunity for group calls, video or audio. This still requires a date and time, content and communication, but it eliminates the need to travel to a specific location. This can make it more convenient. Managing the attendees can be challenging, especially if there is any discussion or Q&A. So I would recommend having a co-host who can focus on the tech.

        Live Video - Facebook and Instagram have options where you can broadcast live, and interact with comments from viewers. This has some value when presenting content live but has limited interaction. Again, there is a date, time, content and communication required.

        Online chat - chat using text and emojis etc. You need to be very cautious using text based interactions, as there is no non-verbal cues. You have to try and interpret the tone of the writing. And what one person thought was playful banter, someone else may read as rude and confronting. Use this sparingly.

        Pre-recorded video - this gives people the chance to interact with the content at a time that is convenient to them. It is primarly one way but can be useful. It requires content and communication but removes the need for date, time and place. Just make sure that you have good quality audio on the video. Nothing more frustrating that not hearing things clearly.

        Mixture -  mix and match the alternatives. You could record the video chat and post it so people can watch it later, to at least get the content. You could pre-record a video and then host multiple Q&A sessions at different times so that people can interact and get more information.

         

        If It Doesn't Work

        We have all had events that didn't go how we hoped, and parent events can miss our expectations too. So somethings to keep in mind:

        • Be positive and hopeful, but temper it with realism. The chances are that not all parents will be there, so don't expect it.
        • During the meeting, focus your energy on those that made the effort to be there.
        • Review afterwards - what went well and what needs work, make adjustments as necessary for future events
        • Follow up - follow up with those that were there, thanking them for coming and get their feedback. Follow up with those that weren't there and let them know that you missed them and pass them any important informaton that they may need.
        • Use positive parents to help promote the next event. If there were parents that found value in the event, then use them to help promote the next one you do.

         

        Tell us about your parent events and communication. What has worked in person and online? What hasn't worked?

        Train Up A Child

        Posted: 
        Thursday, May 14, 2020

        Artificial Maturity

        Posted: 
        Wednesday, May 13, 2020

        Book Blurb

        How to raise kids who can handle the real world.

        Today's Generation iY (teens brought up with the Internet) and Homelanders (children born after 9/11) are overexposed to information at an earlier age than ever and paradoxically are underexposed to meaningful relationships and real-life experiences. Artificial Maturity addresses the problem of what to do when parents and teachers mistake children's superficial knowledge for real maturity. The book is filled with practical steps that adults can take to furnish the experiences kids need to balance their abilities with authentic maturity.

        Shows how to identify the problem of artificial maturity in Generation iY and Homelanders Reveals what to do to help children balance autonomy, responsibility, and information Includes a down-to-earth model for coaching and guiding youth to true maturity Artificial Maturity gives parents, teachers, and others who work with youth a manual for understanding and practicing the leadership kids so desperately need to mature in a healthy fashion. 

         

        My Thoughts

        I found this book a great read to help understand the current generation as well as how to help them. This is good read for both youth leaders and parents. I think one of the most striking parts was how we have not properly prepared our teens for life because we have not communicated the right messages. Below is a summary of one part of the book.

        During their first eight to nine years of life, specific messages should have been sent their way:

        1. You are loved
        2. You are unique
        3. You have gifts 
        4. You are safe 
        5. You are valuable

        Once the above foundation has been laid, what emerging adults need to learn:

        1. Life is difficult 
        2. You are not in control
        3. You are not that important 
        4. You are going to die
        5. Your life is not about you

         

        Try and get your hands on this book, whether purchasing it or getting it from your local library. it is worth it.

        You can buy the book from:

        Treehouse Insult

        Posted: 
        Tuesday, May 12, 2020

        Something to make you chuckle today.

         

        Blog tags: 

        An Example To Youth

        Posted: 
        Monday, May 11, 2020

        1 Timothy 4:12 says Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

        Simon Sinek says "Leaders are the ones who have the courage to go first and open a path for others to follow."

        As youth leaders, we are an example, no matter our age. We are an example for the youth that we lead and we should take that seriously.

        We should be an example of respect. We should speak respectfully about parents, youth, other leaders, other members, our community. I know what it is like to go for the quick and cheap laugh. It feels good for a moment but does not feel good in the long run. Now I am all for some healthy humour, just learn the line between humour and disrespect.

        We should be an example of grace. We all mess up. We all need God's grace. Encourage your youth to stretch and grow in their faith. Encourage your youth to believe the promises of a big God. Encourage your youth towards obedience. But remember that God has extended his grace to you in your weaknesses and failures. So when a young person messes up. extend that same grace to them. And when their parents mess up, extend grace to them, and teach the youth to do the same.

        Let's be leaders who set the example of how broken humanity has been reconciled to God, and how broken humans can serve and love others.

        Links for Week 9/5

        Posted: 
        Saturday, May 9, 2020

        Below are a series of links to articles and resources that I have seen this week.

        Youth Ministry

         

        Leadership

         

        Culture

         

        Soul Care

         

        Family related

           

          COVID-19

          Starting A Parent Ministry

          Posted: 
          Friday, May 8, 2020

          If you thought that your role as a youth pastor or youth leader was just to plan and run programs and events for youth, then think again. Those young people are part of a family with parent/s or care-giver/s that are responsible for them 24/7, even when they are with you.

          The statistics have not changed in the overall influence of the parents or long-term primary carers in young people's lives. Caring adults definitely have a role. But parents are how God designed it.

          So we can either push against it, or we can partner with it. In my experience, resourcing and partnering with parents is the best long-term strategy if we care about young people.

          I can almost see some of you rolling your eyes. You are thinking "Great! So I connect with young people, organise programs, communicate, relate to my pastor or direct report, manage my team, manage the budget. And now you are telling me that I also have to take care of parents? Really? When?"

          And the answer is, "Yes, as you are able."

          It would be unrealistic to expect some gold class program next week that will serve the parents of your youth, and win you youth worker of the year. You need to look at what level you can achieve and also who you have that can help. So let's have a look at some thoughts on this.

          Settle It In Your Heart

          Before stepping towards parent ministry, you need to settle in your heart that this something that you should prioritise. If you do this only because someone has said to then it will not last. Some ways that you can do that:

          • Pray it over, asking God to show you his priority on parents and family, and how you can honour that
          • Read Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and see how the Bible puts the primary care on the parents to be spritual leaders first.
          • Read Think Orange by Reggie Joiner
          • Do some of your own research into family and parent ministry

          Once you have settled it in your heart, then some practical aspects to get you started.

           

          Communication Basics

          At this level of parent ministry, you do what you can to make sure that parents are aware of the details of your program and calendar. You may need to do a little research into the best communication channels to use and find the top 3-4 options. Some current channels to consider:

          • Church newsletter/bulletin (printed or digital)
          • Email (use MailChimp or similar)
          • Text messaging
          • Church website / youth page
          • Facebook - church page, youth page, parents group, all of the above
          • Instagram
          • Postcards at your church's information desk
          • Printed monthly calendar
          • Whats App group
          • Twitter

          There are multiple other ways, you just need to find the ones that most parents actually use and check. Also try to partner these with ease of distribution. If you can create one graphic that can be easily adapted to 2-3 channels then that is ideal. And if you can find tools like Buffer or Hootsuite that can schedule social media posts then make use of them.

           

          Communication Plus

          This level of parent ministry takes the previous one up a notch. It has all the components of Level 1, but adds extras. So not just information, but resources. For example, give the parents an overview of the content from a sermon or Bible study. Include some questions that might spark conversations with their young person. Add to that any articles or resources that might be able to help them. Every Saturday I try and post a bunch of links to articles that might help you, and there is a family section. By all means have a look at those articles and pass one or two through to your parents.

          This is a simple move from communicating information to adding value.

           

          Meet A Need

          There are many needs and concerns that parents have. You won't be able to meet all of them, but take a poll of the parents with a short-list of 4-5 topics and see if there is interest. Pick one of the top two topics and then find a way to present helpful materials on that topic. Some thoughts on how to meet the needs.

          • Host a meeting - communicate date, time, location and content, and make sure it is high value
          • Host an online meeting
          • Consider who the best communicator would be. If you have credibility and the time to collate the materials, then take the opportunity. Maybe there is someone else on your team or in your church who are more suitable.
          • Outsource to external providers - if there is another organisation then find a way to get them in front of parents
          • Find and provide resources - books, DVDs, online material etc
          • Create a small group resource that can be used within existing small groups
          • Do an interview with an expert either live or recorded
          • Make it as practical as you can

          Once you have done this once, learn the lessons and try and do another one at a later time.

           

          Find a Volunteer

          If you are serious about serving parents and families, then find a volunteer who can serve in this area. Someone who's main responsibility is for parents. Anyone with a heart for it can serve in this area, but one to consider is an empty nester who has raised teens and who has a heart for other parents. They don't have to have been perfect parents (there is no such thing) but some level of credibility is important.

           

          Connections

          Connections between parents can be helpful. This may already be happening through your church's small group structures, and if it is then that is great. If it isn't then look for ways that parents can connect and support each other. Promote open diaglogue and honesty in these moments. We often think that our circumstances are unique and no-one else has seen this, but often there are others. Letting parents know that they are not alone can be very helpful for them.

          You may want to consider short courses that gather parents to help develop and resource them. Maybe every so often you can run a cafe at the same time as youth, so parents can bring their youth, hang around and chat and be resourced. Online opportunities are good, just make sure you have the right privacy settings to protect the parents and youth.

           

          A Resource Library/Database

          Think about creating a resource library. I don't just mean books, but websites, DVDs, YouTube videos, courses etc. I know of some churches that have a database of experiences. They find people who have navigated difficult situations and are willing to be support people. So it could be spirituality, attitude and behaviour, self-esteem issues, mental health challenges, technology, pornography, sexuality, alcohol and drug abuse, or many other areas. Our world is complex and having resources and people available can help the parents navigate and care for their youth.

           

          Those are just some ideas that are out there. You may have come across or be running others and we would love to hear what has worked for you. If you have questions or want some help or guidance then let us know and we would love to assist.

          The Shema

          Posted: 
          Thursday, May 7, 2020

          Local Parenting Courses

          Posted: 
          Wednesday, May 6, 2020

          Today's post is a couple of courses to help parents, one of which will also benefit youth leaders. Obviously the timing of the actual courses is fluid at this moment in time but bookmark them for future.


          The Parenting Place

          Parenting Place is the charity with a heart for New Zealand Families

          We’re here to walk alongside you and your whānau from the moment your little one is born, until the time they raise tamariki of their own. Whether you have a newborn, a teenager, a troupe of grandkids, or nieces and nephews, we have a range of programmes, courses, camps and resources, tailored for you and your whānau.

          Everything we do is designed to inspire, encourage, and support the strengthening of your relationships. We make sure it’s fun and entertaining along the way too.

          Our Toolbox parenting courses are bursting with practical strategies, ideas and insights to inspire and equip you on your parenting journey – wherever you’re up to (Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years or Teenage Years).

          Toolbox courses are held over six weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The courses – Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, and Teenage Years run nationwide all year. There is also a Grandparents Raising Grandchildren resource available.

          Courses are facilitated by trained local volunteers who are friendly and supportive. They keep each session flowing smoothly and will support you to engage with the material. Each session will leave you with a range of activities and strategies to try at home.


          Brainwave Trust

          Our aim is to raise public awareness about new findings in brain research and to educate everyone who has an impact on the early life of a child about the important implications of this knowledge on our children’s physical, social, intellectual and emotional development.

          They have a course called Unravelling the Adolescent Brain. 

          In this informative, entertaining presentation the audience will gain an understanding of the latest information on brain changes and hence the behaviours we observe as a child transitions through adolescence to an adult.

          These seminars and workshops are for parents and professionals who are working with adolescents – school teachers and board of governors, youth workers, foster and care providers and families; corrections, CYFs, police, health providers and anyone else who has contact with teenagers.

          Our information is entirely based on up-to-date scientific medical research. Our work is scientific and evidence based, our message is positive and is important to our whole community.


          I thought that Focus On The Family NZ might have had some courses but they only had some online videos and other resources. I was more impressed with the parenting resources available on the Focus On The Family US website, so go check those out as well.

          Matt McGill - HazMatt

          Posted: 
          Tuesday, May 5, 2020

          This guy is seriously hilarious. Some of his earlier videos are pretty funny, but here is the most recent one for your amusement (and slight trauma).

          Ask For Wisdom

          Posted: 
          Monday, May 4, 2020

          James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."

          I firmly believe that much of my teenage and early adult life was impacted by me praying this prayer. Knowing myself and what was happening, there are a number of things that can only be explained because God gave me wisdom.

          As we approach the topic of parents and parent ministry, wisdom is needed. You are dealing with families and people can be very emotional and protective of their families. Both youth and parents. Wisdom is needed in those moments.

          We are moving forward in these times with the COVID-19 virus having it's impact. We need wisdom in regards to how we proceed. What we restart and when. How we reconnect with others.

          No matter how much experience or how much you may know, godly wisdom is always beneficial.

          I am reminded of a church consultant that I know. In 2007, he was approached by a couple of churches who were looking to purchase their own property. Without any imperical evidence, but by the wisdom of God, he strongly urged them to wait. 2008 was the Global Financial Crisis when property values dropped dramatically. Not only were they saved from having a mortgage with negative equity, but were able to buy their ideal buildings at a much better price.

          Whatever situation you may be facing at the moment, pray for wisdom. Whether it is about a leader, a volunteer, a student, a parent, a resource, a program etc, God is able to give you wisdom to get through it. And not just scrape through it, but maybe even to come through with a win/win result.

          God, we ask you for wisdom. We ask you to give us wisdom for our personal lives, wisdom for our ministry life, wisdom for our relationships, wisdom for our work place and wisdom for our finances. Let us hear from you and let our lives reflect your kingdom and your heart. Amen.

          Links for Week 2/5

          Posted: 
          Saturday, May 2, 2020

          Below are a series of links to articles and resources that I have seen this week.

          Youth Ministry

           

            Leadership

             

            Culture

             

            Soul Care

             

            Family related

             

              COVID-19

               

              May - Parent Ministry

              Posted: 
              Friday, May 1, 2020

              Our theme for the month of May is parents and parent ministry.

              Some of our greatest allies and the greatest challenges we can have are the parents of the youth that we lead. If we can understand how to partner with parents, how to resource parents and how to communicate with parents then we can make our life a lot easier. We ignore or mistreat parents at our own peril.

              This month we are going to look at the how and why of parent ministry; running parent meetings; handling difficult parents; and partnering with parents. There will also be some resources that you can share with your parents.

              If you have questions or need resources in this area, then let us know, we have more ideas than there is time to share in this month. And your circumstance might require some specific assistance.

              Iron Sharpens Iron

              Posted: 
              Thursday, April 30, 2020

              Small Group Video Resources

              Posted: 
              Wednesday, April 29, 2020

              One great way for us to help students engage with studies and discussion is to use video clips as part of the study. So to help you with that we have found a few websites that will help you.

              We hope that is of some assistance as you lead students.

              A Conference Call In Real Life

              Posted: 
              Tuesday, April 28, 2020

              In the current life of video calls, this is hilarious.

               

              Certainty In Uncertain Times

              Posted: 
              Monday, April 27, 2020

              Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

              We are living in times where there is a high degree of uncertainty. Politicians used to be respected and trusted, they were considered public servants. I am not sure there are many who would consider politics as an honourable profession. Doctors used to be more trusted and respected, now we are sceptical about whether we can trust their prescriptions. Journalism used to be an industry that would find the truth even if its unpopular, now so many have an angle and an agenda.

              Now, we have this season where a virus has disrupted the world. And most of the time we just wanted to go about our life and love on young people.

              I am reminded that our confidence is not in politicians, doctors, media, celebrities or even our pastors. Our confidence is in God. The unseen but ever present God. The loving God who came to earth as a man and lived through moments where things looked uncertain.

              How do we stand with certainty during uncertain times? Because our hearts and mind are set on our God.

              Ministry may look and feel different. Work may look and feel different. Relationships may look different in this season. Our God is still faithful.

              Dealing With Distracting And Disruptive Youth

              Posted: 
              Friday, April 24, 2020

              It won't take you long as small group leader to come across one or two youth who are distracting or disruptive. To be honest, on any given day, any of your youth can be a cause for disruption. We all have our days when we don't want to pay attention, or we feel like we need to be the centre of attention. And teenagers who have a lot happening are going to do this too.

              Handling distraction and disruption is a key skill as a small group leader. Below are some pointers to help you manage these moments.

              Start with a light-hearted approach. If a young person is being disruptive or distracting, don't jump down their throat and embarrass them. First try to brush it off and get them back on track in a friendly manner.

              Believe and speak the best. If we interact with youth believing the best and speaking that into their lives then you are going to win more times than not. 

              Prioritise relationship. We can sometimes lose sight of the big picture. It is not just about getting through a Bible study but about discipleship. Discipleship is part informational but the larger portion is relational. do your best to preserve relationship. If your relationship with them is weak, then intentionally work on that. If the young person is asked to spend time away from the group for a period, than a leader should be connecting weekly at minimum.

              Have some agreed ground rules. As a group, setting some ground rules for how you operate and how you treat each other is a good idea. It gives a clear understanding of what is expected. The hard part is enforcing those rules. But if you have the ground rules or guidelines, then you have a basis for the initial conversations and what expectations are not being met.

              Get them involved. Sometimes young people are disruptive because they are bored, uninvested or unchallenged. So find ways for them to not just show up but to have some responsibility. If you see leadership potential then let them know that you see it and want to help them develop it and express it in a way that helps the other young people.

              Speak with your supervisor/direct report. If it is an ongoing issue then get some input and help. Sometimes there are things going on in the world of the young person that you weren't aware of. Sometimes they can help with support and resources.

              Have a discipline process and follow it. It is important that this process is set before you have an issue and that the process is primarily restorative. A reactive process is a relational minefield. When needed, the process needs to be clearly communicated to all parties, young person and their parents. And if it gets to the point where it needs to be enforced then follow through with love and a heart towards restoration.

              One helpful article had this list of things to think about:

              1. Kids are imperfect. They are going to distract, disrupt, and disrespect.
              2. We can choose how we come off to kids who do the above things.
              3. How we choose to treat kids says a lot about what we believe about the Gospel.
              4. We should never embarrass a student, no matter what they do.
              5. In the context of our relationship with a student, we should plainly lay out the expectations of how to behave during our events. When those expectations are violated, we should be prepared with simple discipline measures.
              6. We should make parents aware of any problems that persist, and ask for their help in dealing with it.
              7. We should be patient. I know a lot of on-fire Christian adults who were the biggest troublemakers in their youth groups.

              Some other articles, including the one with the above list are:
              Behavior Issues: Disruptive Behavior on Teen Sunday School Place
              How to handle difficult and disruptive students on Life In Student Ministry
              Simmer Down Now on The Source For Youth Ministry

              What have you done to help with distracting or disruptive youth?

              Keep Encouraging Each Other

              Posted: 
              Thursday, April 23, 2020

              All Together - Small Groups

              Posted: 
              Wednesday, April 22, 2020

              Another great NZ resource by the team at All Together, especially designed for small groups. The website has resources on how to establish intentional disciple-making church small groups and has a number of gifts, videos and links.

              • The first relates to mobilising outreach through church small groups.
              • The second relates to making ‘disciple-making disciples’ through church small groups
              • The third is links to a few other resources.

              We hope this is helpful as you continue to develop and grow your small group ministries.

              Student Ministers During Quarantine

              Posted: 
              Tuesday, April 21, 2020

              Finding some humour during these difficult seasons. Enjoy

              For Such A Time As This

              Posted: 
              Monday, April 20, 2020

              Esther 4:14 reminds us that God has his timing. We may feel underqualified, we may feel uncertain, especially during the times we are going through. From my experience, the more unqualified and uncertain we feel, the more we lean into God.

              And that is exactly where God wants us. He wants us in a place where we are just out of our depth. If we could do it on our own then why would he send the Holy Spirit. If we had all the answers then we wouldn't need to ask for and receive His wisdom.

              Don't feel bad in those times you are struggling, we all have them, even youth workers with decades under their belt have moments where they struggle.

              Step into God's presence. Listen for his voice again, confirming to you that you are in the right place, and giving you wisdom and faith for the path forward.

              Remember that you are never alone and if there is ever anything we could do then you can contact us any time.

              Links for Week 18/4

              Posted: 
              Saturday, April 18, 2020

              Building Small Group Connections

              Posted: 
              Friday, April 17, 2020

              The role of a small group leader is part Bible teacher and part relationship builder. As a small group leader, there are a number of connections and relationships that you need to be aware of and work on. Below are some thoughts on how you can build those relationships.

              Connection with young people

              The obvious job is to connect with youth people, and to connect those young people with God. Making time during small group for conversation about their life and praying for their needs should go without saying. But outside of group time, here are some ideas for connecting:

              • Attend one of their extra-curriculars like a sports event, school production etc
              • Message them during the week, share something funny or interesting you found that they might like.
              • Call them during the week
              • Take them on an errand with you
              • Get them to help you on a project
              • Invite them for dinner or take them to their favourite fast food place
              • Do a fun activity together like an arcade or whatever
              • Pop over to their home for a visit
              • Let them know you were praying for them
              • Remember and celebrate their birthday
              • Remember other significant dates. For example, if they have lost a loved one then remember that person's birthday and day of death. These are traditionally the harder days to get through

              There a many more ideas and they can be as individual as the youth you are serving. Be wise in your interactions. If you can take at least 2 youth for outings (or a youth and another leader) then you increase connections and have a degree of protection for your reputation. And share the love, don't just pick your favourite youth all the time, make sure you try to connect with all of them.

               

              Connection between young people

              Beyond your connection with young people, you should be working to connect young people to each other. Friendships formed in small groups can last a lifetime. If we can facilitate those connections then we are helping them grow. Some ideas that can help facilitate that are:

              • Serving together - when a small group serves others together, they build stronger bonds
              • Use technology that can help foster connection, like a WhatsApp group or Facebook Group for your small group to communicate
              • Foster trust between youth, so that if someone shares something personal then it stays in the group
              • Have the youth pray for each other
              • Have fun together

              Connection is best built over positive shared experiences. So build those into your program and calendar.

               

              Connection with parents

              This is really important but that many leaders forget or don't prioritize it. Depending on the age of your youth, they are the gate keepers and determine if they come to small group or not. Also, biblically, they are the principle carer for the young people and the one who God will hold most responsible for them. Being a small group leader is a balancing act between confidante and appropriate disclosure.

              You need to have clear guidelines from your church leadership on when to keep confidentiality and when to escalate and disclose. The main thing is to make sure you never promise 100% confidentiality to a young person. If they believe that is what they have and you share something with a parent then you have broken trust. To connect with parents:

              • Communicate information early and often
              • Use multiple communication channels but try and find the best
              • Make time before or after small group to connect with parents as they drop off and pick up
              • Never speak badly about parents
              • Find specific things to speak well of their youth to them
              • At least once a year, (probably early in year) try and gather with the parents so they can meet you and have a conversation about the year
              • Ask them about themselves and their family

               

              Connection with your direct report

              Everyone's structures are different, so make sure you know how you answer to directly and anyone else who might be in the authority chain. In some contexts, your primary connection may be the youth pastor, but also have connection with the small groups leader for the whole church. Make sure you and all the parties are clear on who the main point of contact is.

              Some things to consider when connecting with your direct report:

              • What information do they want and when do they want it
              • Share positive stories
              • Share challenges or areas you need support
              • Thank them in meaningful ways

               

              What ways have you found to connect with youth, parents and supervisors?

              Spur One Another On

              Posted: 
              Wednesday, April 15, 2020

              Blog tags: 

              Starting Small Groups Strong

              Posted: 
              Wednesday, April 15, 2020

              DYM have a freebie available that was a training presented by Steve Gladen, who has written multiple books on small groups while pastoring the small group team at Saddleback Church.

              Starting Small Groups Strong is currently a freebie on Download Youth Ministry, and we hope it is a blessing to you. If it ever stops being free, then let me know and will share what I have downloaded.

              This kickoff training video was originally part of the 12 Conference - an online conference to help train small group leaders. And while there may be a reference to “this event” here or a “broadcast at your church” there, it is still incredibly valuable tool to help your small group leaders grow in their basic leadership skills.

              This lesson focuses on the “why of small groups” and how to help them start strong. While it might not be youth ministry specific, there’s a lot of good content in it for a good youth ministry training event (or just for you).

              Really Bad Analogies

              Posted: 
              Tuesday, April 14, 2020

              The following are bad analogies written by High School Students. Enjoy.

              • Her eyes were like two brown circles with big black dots in the center.
              • He was as tall as a 6'3" tree
              • Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master
              • From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00pm instead of 7:30.
              • John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
              • She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
              • The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
              • He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
              • Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
              • She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
              • The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM.
              • The lamp just sat there, like an inanimate object.
              Blog tags: 

              The Power of Connection

              Posted: 
              Monday, April 13, 2020

              We are designed to live connected. Connected with our family, connected with our church, connected with our community and connected with our world.

              We are living in a time when connection is being stretched and under stress.

              As leaders, we are having to use different ways to connect with our people. Some ways are successful, others not so much. And as the leader, we are initiating most of those connections and feeling it when it doesn't work. So today, make sure you have the right connections.

              Connect with God - don't miss the opportunity with less happening to connect with God, for your own relationship.

              Connect with life-giving friends - find creative ways to hang out. I have seen options where you can watch a movie together from different locations. You might be able to play games online against each other with video or audio calls.

              Connect with mentors & counsellors - don't feel that just because you can't speak face to face that they aren't available for you.

              Find meaningful and soul-filling connection, so you can be sustained in this season.

              Writing Your Own Bible Study From Scratch

              Posted: 
              Friday, April 10, 2020

              Pre-prepared curriculum is great, but sometimes you have to write your own small group study. Maybe there is something on your heart, maybe you have some budget constraints, maybe there is a specific need. Whatever your reason, below are some steps and advice to help you prepare a great Bible study.

              1. Prayer is the foundation

              So often we want to launch straight into the the "ductive" side of thproe process, reading texts, getting words down and coming up with ideas. But we need to remember that we are stewards for God, stewards of his Word, stewards of the young people and stewards of the opportunity. As faithful stewards, praying and inviting God into the process, product and outcome is crucial.

              Writing a Bible study without praying is like using an electric beater but without power. You will get a degree of result but it will take longer, it will be more draining and it won't be as good. So pause in your process to pray. Pray for wisdom, for faith, for courage, for insight and creativity.

              2. Make time to prepare

              It is shameful the number of times I have thrown a Bible study together in a last minute rush. My history means I have a reasonable amount of depth to draw from. But I know my lack of preparation short changed those young people more often than I knocked it out of the park, when I hadn't properly prepared.

              Set time aside to prepare properly. The pay-off for you and the youth you lead will be noticeable.

              3. Borrow but don't rob

              We should be having regular time with God for ourselves. Those times with God can be moments of inspiration and moments that influence you for ministry. So it is ok to take the things that God is doing in you and use them in the context of ministry. It is not ok to substitute time with God with time preparing for ministry.

              So borrow from what God is doing in you when you lead and minister, but don't rob your quiet time to spend it on ministry prep.

              4. Have good study aids

              Good study aids include things like a study Bible, a concordance, commentaries, solid articles/websites. Many of these can be accessed through the internet, just make sure they are reputable.

              A study Bible will often have some degree of commentary and will have links to similar scriptures so you can follow the thread.

              A concordance can help you find scriptures with similar words, it can also help you understand the depth of the original language. So when you read "ask and you shall receive" you can understand that the original context of "ask" was not a one-time and done deal, it was continuous. So it really means "ask and keep on asking, and you shall receive".

              Commentaries can give you context. So when you read the gospels you understand them to be a narrative with a particular focus and perspective. Like Matthew aimed his gospel at the Jews, so he had genealogies and prophesies. But Mark was more Greek and so it was more action packed. And when you read Revelation you can understand that it is prophetic and allegorical/symbolic. So when it talks about the mark of the Beast on the forehead and hand, that it is more likely to be about the mind and actions of the people, than it is to be about a physical microchip. They also help you understand the context of the letters that Paul wrote.

              Solid articles and websites can help us process and even challenge some of our ideas so we can wrestle with them.

              5. Have a list

              If you are regularly preparing Bible studies then having a list of topics, scriptures, Bible stories, characters etc, is helpful for some inspiration. Of course if you read one of our earlier blog posts then you might already be working through your own scope and sequence. This topic list could be part of a 3 year strategy, or it might just a list collated when you surveyed the youth on topics they wanted to discuss. However you get it, it is helpful to reduce the paralysis that can come when you have to come up with another topic.

              6. Select an idea and define the purpose

              When you select your idea, it is also helpful to state the purpose for the study. The purpose is the one thing you want to achieve. Your topic could be relationships. So your purpose this week is to explore and discuss what the Bible defines as a healthy relationship.

              When you define your purpose it helps you cull out the unnecessary. Let's be honest, just like YouTube can be series of rabbit trails through various broadly linked videos, Bible study can be the same. You follow one line of thinking that opens up a couple of other ideas. You follow those a bit and they might be good and juicy, but if they don't serve the purpose of this study then they are for a future moment. Record those thoughts some where and then get back to the purpose.

              7. Research and gather

              This is the bulk of the time. It is collecting scriptures. It is reading commentaries. It is reading articles. It is jotting down thoughts etc. Try and reference it back to the purpose but don't be too rigid in the early stages. Once you start hanging things on your structure you can exclude and cull. Find what works for you. Whether it is post its, paper, computer etc, however you want to collect and organise is up to you.

              8. Double check idea and purpose

              Sometimes in the research and gathering phase we realize we want to go in a slightly different (or totally different) direction. So just do a check in with that and make sure the idea and purpose are still what they were. Take the opportunity to pray over it once again. Once that is settled then move on.

              9. Hang it onto your structure

              However your group operates, this is where you take that basic structure and start putting content and questions into place. For example, we used to run a 5 part structure.

              1. Hook - something to get their attention. Maybe a story, a video, a question. Something that gets their attention and frames the topic
              2. Scriptures - look at the key scripture/s related to the study. May include questions to help clarify and explain
              3. Key question/thought - linked to your purpose this is what you hope the night revolves around
              4. Discussion - questions, answers, push-back, debate etc
              5. Action - what do we want them to do with this? Is there something to start doing, stop doing, think about, pray about, wrestle with. Sometimes we don't wrap things up with a nice bow. Sometimes things are left hanging and we have to encourage them to wrestle with it and touch base later on

              Your structure may be totally different, but whatever it is, put together the scriptures, thoughts and discussion questions.

              10. Look for creative ideas

              How are you going to add creativity to the study to help engage the youth? Is there a video clip, a song, a story, an object lesson that might help make it stick better? Maybe you switch up the night and you split the group up to research for themselves. Or they have to prepare a short debate as a team. Maybe you go offsite to another location that will help with the topic. Maybe there is someone in your world that has a testimony or understanding that will add a different voice. There are many ways to mix it up, but try not to crowbar a creative idea into a study. If it feels forced, then it will be.

              11. Get some input

              Try and get a couple of trusted people to have a look at it. If you can get a student to check it over, then that can help. As words on a page it may not quite be the same as you leading it on the night, and they may not know your group, but it is worth getting some other eyes looking at it.

              12. Review with grace

              A post meeting analysis is going to happen whether you plan it or not, just review the night with grace. Did you feel properly prepared? Was it relevant? Did the youth engage?

              Remember that there are some nights that are just off nights. For whatever reason, you can be fully prayed up, prepared, great topic and ideas, and it just falls flat. Maybe one of the key youth had had a fight with their family and so they didn't bring their usual energy and input. There are a million reasons that it didn't work. All you can do is figure out if there is anything you need to do to grow and do better next time.

               

              We hope that helps you as you prepare Bible studies and as you disciple young people. What do you do to prepare? What creative ideas have you used to help youth engage with the content?

              Double-edged Sword

              Posted: 
              Thursday, April 9, 2020

              SmallGroups.com

              Posted: 
              Wednesday, April 8, 2020

              SmallGroups.com is a set of resources for building and maintaining a healthy small group ministry. It has resources to help you develop the ministry and leaders as well as Bible studies. Now these Bible studies are not youth specific but there are plenty of other places were you can get youth Bible studies. We use Orange, but DYM has some, Life Church, Grow Curriculum are all some of the many options.

              We hope that these resources help you establish the basis and team that you need to build a strong small groups ministry.

              What resources have you used for your small group ministry?

               

              Rubbish Bag Prank

              Posted: 
              Tuesday, April 7, 2020

              This is probably one of the best I have seen and made me laugh. Enjoy

              Blog tags: 

              An Open Letter to Small Group Leaders Everywhere

              Posted: 
              Monday, April 6, 2020

              An Open Letter to Small Group Leaders Everywhere first appeared on Mark Howell Live

              We hope it is an encouragement to those who lead small groups.

               

              Dear small group leader,

              I hope this letter finds you well (and that may have never been a more important hope than today).

              I also hope this letter finds you ready to play the part God designed you to play. He designed you to have a particular shape and wiring. And like a fingerprint, your design is unique to you.

              And that unique design ought to direct you to an important reality; an important truth.

              In order for you to hear well done, you need to lead your group in keeping with the way God has designed you.

              Have you ever thought of that?

              It's true! Your unique design indicates how you can best lead your group. And the way you can best lead your group is not identical to the way another leader might best lead her group. Or another might best lead his group.

              In other words, in order to hear well done we will each need to lead in the way we were designed.

              Hearing well done is always the result of stewarding well what we've been given (see Matthew 25: 14-30).

              Finally, I hope you caring well for the members of your small group! There has never been a more important season in which to be in regular contact with your members.

              Social distancing and sheltering-in-place make it even more essential for your daily activity to include phone calls and FaceTime, text messages, Facebook posts (or messages), and emails to everyone. Encouraging your members to do the same will boost awareness of belonging.

              When you check in with each other, add "Do you need anything?" to your conversation. One of the marks of the early Church was their reputation for sharing what they had with each other (Acts 4:32). May that be true of your group!

              And while you're at it, be sure and pray for and with your members. And encourage them to do the same for each other.

              These are interesting times! May you lead as never before! And may we all hear well done!

              Mark

              Links for Week 4/4

              Posted: 
              Saturday, April 4, 2020

              Below are a series of links to articles and resources that I have seen this week.

              Youth Ministry

               

                Leadership

                 

                Culture

                 

                Soul Care

                 

                Family related

                 

                COVID-19

                Blog tags: 

                Small Group Discussion Skills

                Posted: 
                Friday, April 3, 2020

                One of the biggest skills in being a small group leader is how to lead a discussion. It is a learned skill, and we all have our good days and our bad days, but let's have a look at some skills that can help.

                Know your content

                When leading a discussion, the better you know the content the better. Also understanding your own beliefs is also helpful. Its like trying to get someone as a local vs someone trying to look at a map. A visitor is unfamiliar with the side roads and is only comfortable sticking to the main roads and they way they know. But a local knows that there are about 5-8 different ways to get where they are going. So if things take a different turn than expected, they can get it back on track and to the right destination.

                Just understand that the destination is not necessarily that all the young people finish the time with the same belief as you. If it is a core Christian belief then obviously that is the desired long term result, but let them wrestle with it. Then just be present for the journey towards their own faith.

                Use open-ended questions

                Discussion needs to be that, it needs to be two-way. If the whole time is just the leader talking then it is of limited value. This is especially true for the current generation that grew up actively participating in most areas of their life. So learn to use open-ended questions. These are questions that require more than yes or no answers. These are useful for general conversation as well as small groups. A closed question is "did you like youth group on Friday?", and open ended question is "what did you like about youth group on Friday?"

                Questions are a great way to get participation. They cause the young people to process the information, because they are now expected to give feedback.

                Give opportunity for non-study chat

                This is best done before and/or after the study, but youth are social beings. They also need to have their social skills honed. Because they are so used to online or cellphone interaction they can struggle with face to face interactions. So make sure you allocate time to this relationship building part of your time. It is not a waste of time. It is valuable time for you to connect and learn about the youth too. This is important information because you need to present the discussions in a relevant way. So the better you know your teens the better you can lead.

                It is an aside, but limit mobile phone use. There will be some who are legitimately looking at their Bible app, but we all know that won't be all. We used to have a rule in one small group I ran that phones were on silent and away. If a message came through then it would be read to the whole group. If the phone rang then one of our more characterful youth would answer it however they pleased.

                Don't put down or mock

                Youth can come up with some unusual questions and thoughts. Some of them are trying to be intentionally funny, which is fine. Some of them have a legitimate question but they think it seems silly and so they frame it as a joke. Others have questions and comments that are genuine but seem silly to us. Learning to gauge these and respond appropriately is complex. Do your best not to put youth down for their comments or questions. It can quickly cause other youth to shut-down and not engage. If they think that they might get mocked then they aren't going to put their head up.

                Respectfully and actively involve the shy

                There are some in the group who will be more vocal and some who will naturally sit back. We are all on the spectrum between extrovert and introvert, and it can depend on the situation where we are at any given moment. Some will be easily drawn into discussion if you ask them a direct question. Some will not be drawn in no matter how hard you try. Don't ignore them just because they may not participate in the group. Continue to give them opportunity with an easy out. Try to connect with them one-on-one, whether before or after, or outside of small group. Connect with them online. If your personality is vastly different from theirs, then it can be helpful to find someone with a similar personality to connect.

                I remember one girl who was friendly enough, who would answer when called on, but not much else. After group I would tidy up and then do some tidy up work in my office and my online messenger would start up. She would have things going on that she wanted input on, and so we would message about life and God for a bit. We have to be open to these engagements as well, up to a point.

                Learn how to redirect conversation

                There is a high chance that discussions will get off topic. It doesn't take much. Sometimes it is important to follow the thread. If you sense there is a need that should be addressed, or God is leading that night's discussion in a different way, then follow it. Don't be so rigid that you can't adapt in those moments. Then there are times that we should follow the topic. Learning how to get discussion back on track is important.

                • Having questions or an attention grabbing story or truth that pulls attention can help
                • Remind people that there is time for other discussions afterwards but for now we are focussing on this
                • Object lessons can be helpful to break up discussion time and minimize distractions
                • Funny punishments, depending on your group
                • A raised voice to get attention

                Try not to raise your voice in anger. Often anger is caused because we feel like we are failing and we are expressing our frustration. And sometimes our frustration is born out of love. We want to help these young people grow and we feel they are wasting the opportunity. A raised voice to get their attention, can then move to a conversational tone where love and the importance of the topic is expressed. Let them know how you would like them to constructively participate. Just be careful with the raised voice.

                There are lots of different ways. Try a few different ways and see what works for your group.

                 

                Being a small group leader for young people is an immense privilege. It is not just about working through topics and Bible studies. It is about walking through a season of their journey, helping them to navigate life, relationships and faith. And we should bathe it in prayer, understanding that we have a responsibility to them and to God.

                What are some skills that we have missed? Let us know in the comments.

                Gathering in Homes

                Posted: 
                Thursday, April 2, 2020

                April - Small Groups Month

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, April 1, 2020

                Our theme for the month of April is small groups.

                One of the greatest strategies of modern ministry is small groups. You can run a great program that draws a crowd, but can just as easily lose them to the next attractive opportunity down the road. If we take our obligation to make disciples, and not just build a crowd, then small groups need to be part of our process.

                This month we are going to look at various aspects of small groups. How to create a Bible study, how to lead a discussion, dealing with the difficult ones, resources to help you develop and create a small group program.

                We hope this is helpful for you as you serve young people and build disciples that last a life time.

                Country Song - Truck Leaves

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, March 31, 2020

                I have a love-hate relationship with country music. I love to hate it and any opportunity to mock it a little is an opportunity I can't miss. Enjoy a laugh today.

                 

                Blog tags: 

                Not Alone

                Posted: 
                Monday, March 30, 2020

                As we near the end of the first week of isolation here in NZ, we want to let you know that while you may be limited in your face to face interactions, you are not alone.

                We are praying for you as you navigate this season with your youth, leaders and parents.

                God is not surprised by what is happening in our world. He is trustworthy and he loves us. That doesn't make these moments easy, and it doesn't give us a license to ignore best practice when it comes to isolation and distancing.

                You can do this and if you ever need someone to talk to, please contact us.

                Blog tags: 

                Links For Week 28/3

                Counseling Youth

                Posted: 
                Friday, March 27, 2020

                There is load to unwrap in this area, and if it is of interest to you then seek training and even qualifications.

                The purpose of this blog post is not to give an in depth understanding of the various techniques in therapy and counseling. It is some basics for pastoral care and appropriate referral. First, let's quickly cover the levels of helper.

                1. Untrained person - a leader, parent or adult with no training but can listen and offer thoughts from life experience and from their faith journey.
                2. Semi-trained person - a leader, parent or adult who has done some courses to help them up-skill and understand the issues and how to handle various situations.
                3. Semi-trained pastor - Done some theological and ministry training and gained some recognition with a ministry credential or official recognition.
                4. Fully-trained counselor/therapist - completed a degree level or above course and has the official qualification and accountability structures to practice and even get paid for their services.

                Each level can be in operation in a healthy youth ministry, it is just about understanding when a young person needs to be moved up the levels to get more skilled and focussed attention.

                 

                Below is a summary of the Counseling Youth chapter of Josh McDowell's Youth Ministry Handbook, which I believe creates a good foundation to build from.


                The chapter is intended to do three things:

                1. Make you a more knowledgeable and sensitive friend to a young person in crisis
                2. Provide you with a biblical foundation and spiritual direction in counseling
                3. Enable you to better direct a young person to professional counseling when advisable

                Some Biblical Assumptions

                There are four important principles to understand when counseling young people. They are all based on the principles and teachings of the Bible:

                1. God is love (1 John 4:16), and God is truth (John 14:6). God's love motivates Him to reveal His truth to us. We believe the truth makes people free when they believe it and obey it (John 8:31-32).
                2. Though not all crises or problems are spiritual, they are interrelated with a person's spiritual beliefs and spiritual state.
                3. A crucial factor in achieving healing and wholeness is a personal relationship with God.
                4. Healthy relationships are the linchpins of mental, emotional and spiritual health.

                One final assumption. I assume that you will take the appropriate steps at the appropriate time to challenge the young person to accept Christ as Lord and Savior if he os she has not done so already. People are often more receptive to spiritual things in times of personal crisis; it is hoped that you will seize that opportunity wisely.

                Qualifications for Counseling Youth

                Empathy - A youth worker, parent or other adult who hopes to effectively counsel young people must be able to truly empathize with them. Romans 12:15 says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Sometimes the most helpful responses we can give to hurting young people are empathetic expressions of understanding: "It's terribly hard to put such strong feelings into words." "You were scared." "Everything seems so confused now." Empathy can have a healing impact.

                Warmth - Jesus is a great example of this. He demonstrated caring, accepting, and loving feelings toward those He met. He exhibited a sincere interest in people He talked with and felt genuine concern and compassion for them. People trusted Him, turned to Him, and confided in Him because the warmth of His care and concern invited them to do so.

                Genuineness - A genuine person is someone who is "for real" - an open, sincere person who avoids phoniness or playing a superior role. Genuineness implies spontaneity without impulsiveness and honesty without cruel confrontation.

                A Humble Spirit - A humble spirit seeks to understand more than to be understood. Much damage can be done by a counselor who is arrogant or self-centered. A humble spirit focuses the counseling around the thinking and feelings of the counselee.

                A Relationship with Jesus Christ - For many reasons, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is crucial for anyone who intends to counsel others. There will be times when the counselor must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit to provide insight into a problem or solution. There will be times when the only solution is prayer and dependence on the grace and forgiveness of God.

                A Knowledge of Fundamental Biblical Teaching - A counselor of youth does not need a seminary degree, but a knowledge of the Bible and its central precepts and principles is vital.

                The Object of Counseling

                Many caring adults believe the object of comforting and advising a young person is to make that young man or woman happy. The object of ministering to youth, however, is not happiness but wholeness.

                1. Spiritual Wholeness - The first object in working with youth is and must be spiritual wholeness. The centrality of a real, personal, thriving relationship with Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized. Moreover, as Larry Crabb writes, "Paul wrote in Colossians 1:28 that his verbal interaction with people (counseling?) always was designed to promote Christian maturity. Only the maturing believer is entering more deeply into the ultimate purpose of his life, namely, worship and service. Biblical counseling therefore will adopt as its major strategy the promotion of spiritual maturity"
                2. Emotional Wholeness - Dr Henry Cloud points out that emotional problems such as depression, panic and feelings of guilt are related to "the underdeveloped image of God within the soul." Emotional wholeness, Cloud believes, "lies in the working out of the image of God within us." Teens or preteens who are being guided to spiritual maturity in Christ can also be helped toward emotional wholeness, toward an understanding and healing of the emotional problems that plague them.
                3. Relational Wholeness - Another goal of ministering to youth is the promotion of relational wholeness. So much of the pain and dysfunction suffered by youth today is a result of unhealthy or broken relationships. Key among these is the parental relationship. A major goal of any adult who cares for young people is to achieve healing and restoration of that young person's relationships - first with God, then with parents, then with others. Do everything you can to encourage communication and facilitate understanding between parent and child. Make yourself available, not only to youth, but to parents as well. Resist the temptation to take sides; try not to defend or excuse actions of parents or their children. While some situations call for extreme caution (such as a youth who is suffering abuse), you should strive to inform and involve the youth's parents as soon as possible after learning of a crisis situation; in some cases it is your legal and ethical obligation to do so.

                Words of Wisdom

                Several words of wisdom will help you avoid unnecessary risks in ministering to young people:

                • Never counsel anyone behind closed doors; meet in public places that offer the opportunity for "private" conversation, such as a school cafeteria, park or restaurant
                • Set clear limits regarding your involvement, particularly if dependence is beginning to develop. For example, how often do you meet with the young person? Anytime? Under what circumstances? For what purpose? Such limits are not intended to separate the adult and the youth but to help the adult be as objective and, therefore, as helpful as possible to the youth.
                • Limit interaction with members of the opposite sex to group settings. If you must interact with a member of the opposite sex, take along a third party, a trusted companion.
                • Be alert to signs that you are being manipulated or exploited. For example, are you doing things for young people that they could and should be doing themselves? Redefine healthy boundaries in your relationships.
                • Make your obligations and limitations clear to the young person. You might say, for example, "No, I can't promise not to tell your parents, but I'll go with you if you would rather tell them." Do not make promises you can't keep, and don't foster expectations you can't meet.

                Counseling Techniques

                Attending
                The counselor must try to give undivided attention to the counselee. This is done through

                • eye contact - looking without staring as a way to convey concern and understanding
                • posture - should be relaxed and often involves leaning toward the counselee
                • gestures - natural but not excessive or distracting

                Listening
                This involves more than giving passive or halfhearted notice to the words that come from another person. Effective listening is an active process. It involves

                • being able to set aside your own conflicts, biases, and preoccupations so you can concentrate on what the counselee is communicating.
                • avoiding subtle verbal or nonverbal expressions of disapproval or judgment about what is being said, even when the content is offensive.
                • using both your eyes and your ears to detect messages that come from the tone of voice, posture, gestures, facial expressions, and other nonverbal clues.
                • hearing not only what the counselee says, but noticing what is left out.
                • waiting patiently through periods of silence or tears as the counselee summons enough courage to share something painful or pauses to collect his or her thoughts and regain composure.
                • realizing that you can accept the counselee even though you may not condone his or her actions, values or beliefs.

                Responding
                It should not be assumed that the counselor listens and does nothing else.

                • Leading is a skill by which the counselor gently directs the conversation. "What happened next?" and "Tell me what you mean by..." are brief questions that can steer the discussion in directions that will yield useful information.
                • Reflecting is a way of letting counselees know we are "with them" and able to understand how they feel or think. "You must feel..." or "I bet that was frustrating" or "That must have been fun" or "I hear you saying..." are all statements that reflect what is going on in counseling. Be careful not to reflect every statement; do it periodically.
                • Questioning, if done skillfully, can bring forth a great deal of useful information. The best questions are those that require at least a sentence or two to answer ("What sort of things are making you unhappy?") rather than those that can be answered in one word ("Are you unhappy?").
                • Confronting is not the same as attacking or viciously condemning another person. When we confront, we present an idea to the counselee that he or she might not see otherwise. "Have you considered...?" Counselees can be confronted about sin in their lives, failures, inconsistencies, excuses, harmful attitudes, or self-defeating behaviors. Confrontation is best done in a loving gentle, nonjudgmental manner.
                • Informing involves giving facts to people who need information. Try to avoid giving too much information at any one time; be clear, and remember that when people are hurting, they respond best to information that is relevant to their immediate needs or concerns.
                • Supporting and encouraging are important parts of any counseling situation, especially at the beginning. Support includes guiding the counselee to take stock fo his or her spiritual and emotional resources and helping with any problems or failures that come as a result of this action

                Teaching
                All of these requirements are specialized forms of psychological education. The counselor is an educator, teaching by instruction, by example and by guiding the counselee as her or she learns by experience to cope with the problems of life.

                Filtering
                Good counselors are not skeptical people who disbelieve everything a counselee says, but it is wise to remember that counselees don't always tell the whole story and don't always say what they really want or need.

                As you counsel, therefore, mentally try to sort through the counselee's words. What is he or she really asking? What does this person really want? Are there problems other than the ones that are being presented?

                The Referral Process

                Most crisis situations do not have simple answers. There are good, biblically sound Christian counselors who specialize in helping people sort out emotional problems through biblical solutions. It is vitally important that you find a qualified, biblically based Christian counselor if and when one is needed to help you with a youth in crisis. That counselor can then aid you in your ministry with the young person as you encounter a crisis that calls for a specialist. We suggest the following steps:

                1. Ask for a list of Christian counselors from other local youth leaders, pastors, or trusted friends. You may also search out Christian counsellors through NZ Christian Counsellors Association.
                2. Set an appointment for an interview with one or more Christian counselors in your area. Call for an appointment and explain that you are looking for a Christian counselor to whom you can feel comfortable referring your young people. During the interview, ask questions on the following topics:
                  1. Spiritual qualifications. What does a potential counselor mean by identifying himself or herself as a "Christian counselor"?
                  2. Educational and professional qualifications. Does the counselor have a degree from an accredited, reputable university or Bible college? In what field of study? Are they licensed or certified?
                  3. Experience level. How long has the counselor been providing services? What methods does the counselor use? Does he or she have an area of specialty or particular expertise?
                  4. Rates. Is there a set fee or a sliding scale? When is payment for services expected?
                3. Pay attention to first impressions. Is it apparent that the office or counseling center is staffed by Christians? Are clients treated with courtesy, warmth, and respect by everyone from the receptionist to the counselor? Are intake procedures, including forms to be completed and signed, professional yet clear? Is confidentiality assured?
                4. Ask additional questions. Ask if the counselor has previous experience with a specific problem. Find out if other churches or those working with youth refer their young people to this counselor. If so, ask if you can contact those churches for references.
                5. Above all, pray for wisdom in locating a Christian counselor. You need to find someone who will help you carry the burdens of the person in need and help resolve his or her problems. God can lead you to such a person.

                Conclusion

                Perhaps more than anything else, young people today need someone to love them without conditions. They may not have experienced that kind of love at home. God may be using you to reinforce the foundations of a crumbling home, or He may simply use you to reinforce the influence of a healthy home. Whatever the situation you can provide a refuge, a safe place, an "oasis," where youth in crisis can feel loved without conditions and where they find comfort, encouragement, and support.


                We hope this excerpt is of value as you lead and care for young people.

                Truth Will Set You Free

                Posted: 
                Thursday, March 26, 2020

                Blog tags: 

                Help For Hurting Youth

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, March 25, 2020

                We have a course available for you and your team called Help For Hurting Youth.

                Currently set up as 10 sessions with a total of 8-10 hours, this course covers the essentials for youth leaders to prepare themselves to assist young people who are in pain.

                Topics include:

                • Sex & sexuality
                • Drugs & alcohol
                • Mental health - including stress, anxiety & self-esteem
                • Technology and internet
                • What teenagers need
                • Counselling 101
                • Dealing with suicide
                • Sexual abuse
                • Divorce, broken families, mixed families
                • Third-culture youth

                If you are interested in learning more then please contact us or make a course enquiry

                John West Tuna Ad

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, March 24, 2020

                Don't Lose Perspective

                Posted: 
                Monday, March 23, 2020

                In difficult seasons, we can sometimes lose perspective. We can get caught up in the busyness of life and ministry, running from fire to fire, trying to manage it all. The truth is that as a leader, putting out fires is part of the job description. Helping people who are struggling, encouraging leaders who might be struggling, resourcing parents who aren't sure what to do. It can all be part of modern youth ministry.

                There are seasons where this can feel like that is all you are doing. I want to encourage you that there are also seasons where it feels like things are going smoothly, that leaders are confident and performing, young people in need are getting the right help, programs are running smoothly.

                In both instances, don't lose perspective.

                1. We are partnering with God for His Kingdom
                We serve and we lead in response to God's love for us. We are building his kingdom, but we do not do it alone. We do it through the power of the Holy Spirit. Know that God is so committed to people that he sacrificed all for those relationships. His love is for that young person in your youth group who lifts their hands in worship and for the one that sits with their arms folded. For that leader that doesn't quite get it yet and the one that is killing it. For that young person who has relationship with God and the one who has yet to hear the gospel message. For the parent that goes out of their way to support you and the one that causes you grief. It is not easy, but in good times and difficult, thank God for the season and the privilege of serving.

                2. Protect your relationship with God
                When life and ministry is busy, we often relegate our relationship with God to the side, as an optional extra that we will pick up again when we have the time. Really, those times should be the ones when we lean into God more.

                3. Protect your key relationships
                Much like our relationship with God, we can be tempted to de-prioritize our important relationships during busy times too. I think we can assume that they will always be with us so if they are neglected for a season then it will be still be ok. After all they have to forgive us. I am not sure that is a correct perspective. There are seasons that require us to be more present in one area, but it should be balanced by a season where key relationships are prioritised.

                4. We are stewards
                We must remember that whether it is a role, a responsibility or a resource, we are only stewards, and only for a season. Eventually one day someone else will have the responsibilities and role that you currently have. So during the season that you are serving, you need to be a faithful steward, because one day we will all answer to God.

                5. It is a season, and by God's grace we can overcome
                If you are in a difficult season, remember that it is a season, and that God's grace is sufficient. You will come out the other side. Romans says that we are more than conquerors.

                No matter what is happening, keep your heart right and don't lose perspective.

                Caring During Crisis

                Posted: 
                Friday, March 20, 2020

                Below are excerpts taken from Josh McDowell's Youth Ministry Handbook. The chapter was written by Rich van Pelt and is called Helping Kids through Life's Tough Stuff.

                We hope that it helps in this moment around COVID-19 and for future crises that you will help youth through in the future.

                If we are not equipped to help kids in crisis in today's culture, we are not equipped to do effective youth ministry.

                It is important to recognize that sometimes - often - good kids make poor choices. Others will live with the consequences of the choices they have made. We cannot control the choices young people will make, but we can control how we respond.

                Madeleine L'Engle said, "In a very real sense, not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God chooses the most unqualified to do His work, to bear His glory. If we are qualified, we tend to think we have done the job ourselves. If we are forced to accept our evident lack of qualification, then there's no danger that we will confuse God's work with our own or God's glory with our own."

                God is calling each of us to be stretcher-bearers, just like the four men in Mark 2:1-5

                There is no indication that these men were professional stretcher-bearers. They only knew that Jesus had the power to heal the paralytic, so they did whatever they could to get him to Jesus. Jesus was moved by their faith and perseverance. Do you have the same faith? Do you have the same perseverance? Will you do whatever it takes, even when you feel inadequate?

                Crisis situations offer an opportunity to come alongside kids and their families, in the name of Jesus, and make a difference.

                Practical Principles for Helping Youth in Crisis

                1. They must know that they are loved unconditionally
                If young people are going to survive life's bumps, bruises, and major challenges, they must experience unconditional love. People who have acted irresponsibly and made poor choices need acceptance and support. it is possible to affirm a person's inherent worth without condemning negative behaviour. People suffering loss, grief, uncertainty, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts etc. all need unconditional love. People who are broken do not need to be lectured or preached to, they need to be accepted and loved unconditionally.

                2. Who we are is more important that what we know
                What you know is important, but a theoretical understanding of crisis will only get you a college degree. First and foremost, youth respond to people who care. A crisis helper has:

                1. Humour - kids are attracted to adults who have a healthy sense of humour. When all else seems hopeless or lost, humour can provide a sense of perspective. The last thing kids need in a crisis is someone who sees only the negatives. An appropriate sense of humour can go a long way.
                2. Empathy - empathy is feeling your pain in my heart and is very different to arrogance. Arrogance assumes an understanding of how a person is feeling, while empathy works hard at understanding. This can only be accomplished through listening - allowing people to tell us their stories while we patiently listen.
                3. Presence - a phone call is only the next best thing to actually being there. When people are going through tough times, they don't need a video, a sermon or a book. They need you. Your willingness to be available communicates how much you care. You don't even need to have the right words. Just sitting with them, crying with them, acknowledging their pain, making them food and drinks etc. means so much.
                4. Right Motives - We have the privilege of being stretcher-bearers for Jesus' sake as we help young people through some of the most difficult experiences of their lives. Sadly, many youth workers become involved with kids for their own personal gain or ego. They like to be the answer. Youth have a strong radar for fake or phony people and will avoid them.
                5. Training - while who you are is more important that what you know, what you know is still important. Keep an eye out for courses that can help. Courses around grief, counselling etc can help up-skill you and your team.
                6. Servant Spirit - the men in Mark 2 brought a paralyzed friend to Jesus because they knew their friend couldn't possibly get to Jesus on his own. Although they couldn't fix his legs, they could build a stretcher and carry him to Jesus. They bore the weight so their friend would be healed. We must have the same servant spirit - doing what needs to be done with little concern about our own convenience or the thanks we might receive.

                 

                The Crisis-Intervention Process

                1. Diagnosing
                Half the battle is identifying the problem or recognizing that a problem even exists. Without the right diagnosis, subsequent treatment will have little effect.
                Diagnosis requires knowing people, which takes genuine connection. Without genuine connection you will rarely be able to offer substantive help to a young person in crisis.

                2. Gathering Information
                This is a critical step in the helping process. Listening is our greatest tool in gathering information. We must learn to listen to words as well as to body language. Young people often say one thing with their words and another with their body language. Also, seek information wider than just the young person. If there is an issue that involves others, then seek to understand their position. If there are people who know the young person better, seek their thoughts and input. Of course understand that any perspective is not necessarily the accurate picture, it is one person's angle.

                3. Determine Lethality
                You should always question whether a young person might be suicidal. If you are not sure, then simply ask (and don't worry, you will not give kids any ideas they have not thought of before). They need someone who is not afraid to talk about it. This helps kids to know that you understand how deep their pain is. By asking this question, you give them the freedom to talk openly.
                If a kid says, "No, it's not that bad", then ask them to commit to you that if suicide is ever a consideration, you will be one of the first people to know. Even go so far as to create a written formal agreement that they will let you know. Research shows that majority of young people will honour the agreement, giving you opportunity to potentially save their life.
                If a kid says yes, then always take them seriously. Do not leave their side until you get help. Call parents or emergency personnel for assistance.

                4. Focusing
                Be sure you are dealing with the real issue, not a side issue. Kids will sometimes test the waters to see if you are really willing to listen. This is why I always ask kids in conversation, "So how is everything else going?" This communicates to kids that I am interested in their whole lives and gives them permission to continue talking if they have more to share.

                5. Creating a Plan of Action
                The whole point of the process is to help come up with a plan of action. This will either resolve the problem or move toward a lessening of the impact that the situation is having on a teenager's life. We may not be able to fix the problem, but we can help the young person come up with a workable solution to cope. Sometimes the best we can do is help young people connect with community resources that can help.

                6. Following Through
                Even if you refer a young person to professional help, it's important to continue to stay connected. Continue to be a friend even if you are not primarily responsible for the young person's continuing journey to health and wholeness.

                 

                Make sure that in all this, that you maintain your sanity. Check out a previous post about boundaries and balance, that is crucial when dealing with crisis.

                His Burdens Are Light

                Posted: 
                Thursday, March 19, 2020

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                Sacred Pathways

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, March 18, 2020

                If we are wanting to develop life-long disciples then it is important to understand that people connect with God in different ways. So often we have these default answers to how people should connect with God, but it is not how all people are wired. Heck, it is not how we are wired, but it is the advice we receive and so we do our best.

                Sacred Pathways explores 9 styles of connection with God. As with all styles, people are often a mixture of a few. The better you understand the styles, the better you can lead people to find their primary way of connecting. A quick summary of each style is below.

                Naturalist - people who connect with God best through the outdoors and nature, being in creation helps them connect with the Creator.

                Sensates - people who love and connect with God through their senses. Sounds, smells, beauty/visuals, taste and touch. Things like beautiful art or architecture, the smells of incense etc.

                Traditionalists - people who connect with God through tradition, ritual and symbols.

                Ascetics - people who find God through solitude and simplicity.

                Activists - people who love and connect with God through confronting injustice and unrighteousness.

                Caregivers - people who connect best with God when they are loving and serving others

                Enthusiasts - people who love and connect with God through mystery and celebration. They like excitement and awe in their worship.

                Contemplatives - people who love God through adoration. They seek to lovingly gaze into God's face and be caught up in the enjoyment of a lover's experience.

                Intellectuals - people who find connection through their mind. A stimulated mind that grasps something new about God unleashes these people's worship and love.

                 

                Those are very brief summaries, and examples of each can be found through the Bible. I encourage you to read and guide your youth so they can learn to connect with God in ways that are meaningful to them.

                You can find the book at:

                • Amazon
                • Book Depository
                • Your local library may have it (Auckland libraries have the physical book, the ebook and the audio book formats)

                Always Sow Hope

                Posted: 
                Monday, March 16, 2020

                Research shows that young people are the most anxious we have seen. According to one article, the youth of today live day-to-day with anxiety levels that 50 years ago would have them diagnosed as having a mental health issue. In NZ we continue to have one of the highest suicide rates globally, most of those in under 25s. While the rates in NZ have not moved dramatically, some of the demographics have.

                All that to say we have a responsibility to sow hope into hearts.

                Guard your heart and the hope you have, and sow it into others.

                Our world can look dismal and dark. It can look confusing and scary, especially when adults are as uncertain as the young people who are entering it. But it is not hopeless. We have hope. Hope for today, hope for tomorrow, hope that our yesterday is redeemable, hope for ourselves, hope for others.

                Here is the thing about sowing hope. Just like a seed, it can sometimes take time to germinate, to begin to show evidence. It can also take time to bear fruit. But that doesn't mean we stop sowing seeds or watering the ground.

                In uncertain times, don't give up hope, and don't stop sowing hope into the hearts of those around you.

                Take a moment and read Romans 5. I like it in The Passion Translation. Verse 5 says "And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hears through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!"

                Social Distancing Greetings

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, March 17, 2020

                In these times, we still need to find humour in difficult moments.

                Make Your Own 3 Year Scope & Sequence

                Posted: 
                Friday, March 13, 2020

                Sometimes as youth leaders, we get caught in a week to week cycle. We look to the next event, the next Bible study, the next sermon and don't spend time planning what we are teaching the young people in the long term. If we are serious about discipling young people into life-long disciples, then we need to take the time to plan what we are teaching them. Whether preaching to a large group or in a small group discussion, we should be intentional.

                The new language around this having a scope and sequence. The scope is the overview of what to teach. The sequence is the order to teach it in. Below is a summary of steps to take, for you to develop your own 3 year scope and sequence. I suggest a 3 year period for your scope. Realistically you won't cover everything in one year odds are you won't have most of your youth for the 5 potential years of High School.

                I have no issues with purchased curriculums either. If you can find one that is suitable for your group and that you can afford, then by all means make use of their resources. There are a few out there. Orange has XP3 Curriculum, Stuff You Can Use developed Grow Curriculum, YM360 has the Formation Series, lots of other places have one-off studies or series that you can use. I just find that sometimes it takes a significant effort to crowbar the studies to fit the context of our youth.

                Take the time to think through how you are teaching and guiding your young people through their faith and its application to their life. Find the right fit for you.

                If you want or need to write your own scope and sequence, then below are some steps to help you on this journey.

                I have not included it as a step, but it is worth noting that this process should be bathed in prayer. God cares about these young people and his input, inspiration and wisdom are invaluable.

                1. Assemble a diverse team

                It is a big undertaking and to try this on your own is a mammoth task, especially when you have topics that you naturally lean into and some you don't. So you need the balance. Don't overload the table, but a mix of guys & girls, ages and stages, and giftings. Have a couple of youth and a couple of parents, some young adults and older people. The main qualification is that they love God and young people.

                2. Research

                I have already given some examples of purchased curriculums, but look at their scope and sequences. See if you can find other churches or websites who have something already in place and see what they cover.

                3. Context & Parameters

                Understanding your current context is important, because it gives you the current framework. This covers things like:

                • Where will the topics be used? Small groups, preaching to large group, both?
                • What are your current structures and rhythms? Do your small groups do a monthly social event or community initiatives every term? Do you preach once a month, once a week? Do programs run during holidays?
                • From that, how many weeks a year of content do we need to be thinking about?
                • Will small groups be doing the same studies at the same time? Or will they only do the same studies at key strategic moments and the rest of the time will be group dependent?
                • If running a flexible small group topic system, how will the groups be tracked to ensure that they cover all the required topics?
                • Who decides on the topics and when?
                • What else do we need to consider?

                4. Brainstorm

                Get ideas written down. I would suggest that if you can, doing this using post-it notes can be helpful. Later on, you can move and group similar topics into possible series far easier using post-its. The question here is, what do young people need to learn and know in order to become more mature and grounded in their faith?

                I would set aside a solid 2-3 hours for the first initial brainstorming and sorting. Set up the environment for good creative thinking and processing. Post-its, white boards, scribble paper, drinks, snacks, breaks, stress balls etc. Find ways to help stimulate discussion and ideas.

                5. Sorting

                Group similar topics together. Identify topics that should be covered every year vs topics that can be covered once over the 3 years. I know we used to have a relationship series and evangelism studies every year. You may have others.

                Also determine which ones should be a series, and how long a series should last. Which ones can stand alone? I find it is good to have a mixture. It can sometimes be good to mix up the rhythm. Have a couple of stand alone topics after a series, and the timing around exams and holidays can be a factor too.

                6. Review against parameters

                Do you have the right number of topics to cover the required number of weeks that you need to fill? Do you need more topics or less? Work to get these numbers to match. If you need to cull topics, then see if you can find the base principles and see what can dovetail into that principle. A relationship series doesn't just have to be about dating, it can also be used to speak about parents, siblings, bullying, authority, forgiveness, trust etc.

                If you need more ideas, then go back to step 2 and see what they have that you might be missing.

                7. Consider timing

                When you start putting topics and themes into the calendar, if you are planning at that level, then consider the timing. There are some things that fit more naturally into the rhythm of your year, both with local events, seasons and school cycles. Be aware that there will likely be a drop off around study and exam times. Use the Easter for related topics. Some of this is can be trial and error, so be patient and take the long view.

                8. Gather materials

                As a team, gather materials over time to help with topics. If there is a new movie that has a scene that would fit for a certain topic, then note it. Empower the team to keep an eye out as well. Even if you have just done the talk and someone comes to you with a resource that could have been helpful, don't be frustrated, note it down for next time. In 2-3 years time, it might not be the most up-to-date, but it might be more current than your original idea. Always be on the look out for articles, clips etc.

                If you don't have an idea gathering system, somewhere you can find an store ideas and resources, then start this. I like Evernote. It has free option and you can store text, links, photos etc. You can tag and file notes for easy searching. It can even find words in photos. But there are other tools, so find what works for you.

                9. Review and reset

                Each quarter, look back over what was achieved and look ahead to the coming months. This is good to do with key leaders and the team that is helping you. You can adjust the coming months based on what is happening and what your youth need. Be flexible. Things can happen that we didn't plan for, but need to be considered.

                 

                You may go through all the early planning phases determining what topics need to be covered and realize that there is a curriculum already available that suits you. That is great, because you can focus on other areas. But don't try to wing it from week to week and expect well rounded followers of Christ. Our natural tendency is to focus on our strengths and personal preferences, which means there are some topics that you may never cover.

                If you ever need assistance in this process, then we are more than happy to have a conversation and offer our assistance.

                Do you have any resources that can help with this? Share them in the comments.

                Remain In Me

                Posted: 
                Thursday, March 12, 2020

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                Shaping The Spiritual Life Of Students

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, March 11, 2020

                I read this book a number of years ago, but it still holds true as a good tool for discipleship and pastoral care.

                The core principle of the book is about walking beside youth in their journey, at their speed. And walking with them in all areas. The author calls this pacing.

                Here is an excerpt:

                Pacing is the language of love not only for effective parenting but for effective student ministry. Pacing requires me to listen to the heart of an adolescent, seeing beyond words and behaviors. Pacing therefore demands time, the time it takes to go beyond the surface in a conversation or to enter the social turf of a student - a band concert, a dorm room. Pacing is costly. The payoff, however, far exceeds the cost. Choosing to listen or to engage personally in an adolescent's world communicates, "Who you are matters to me. I care about what you think, how you feel and why you make the choices you do." Pacing builds trust. Trust produces relationship. Relationship conceives spiritual life exchanges. Such exchanges are the sacred places where the Holy Spirit reaches through the life of a Christian spiritual caregiver to change forever the life of a student."

                The book can feel a little intellectual at points, but the knowledge and skills are worth it.

                Pick up a copy at:

                Chicken Memes

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, March 10, 2020

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

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                Not All But Some

                Posted: 
                Monday, March 9, 2020

                Exodus 4:2 - Then the LORD said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied.

                Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the needs and opportunities. I see hurting young people, struggling parents, youth leaders with good hearts that may not have all the support they need, schools struggling, youth falling through the cracks. The list could go on and on.

                The truth is, I can't fill all the needs I see, neither am I supposed to. Just as Moses was overwhelmed by the magnitude of setting his people free, God told him to look at what was in his hand.

                What is the opportunity right in front of you?

                You can't do it all, but you can make a difference in the place and moment that you are in right now.

                We all live with opportunities and limitations. If we see all the opportunities but never act on any, then we sit in an overwhelmed state and never make a difference. If we see the opportunities and try to act on all of them then we become ineffective at any of them. If we focus on our limitations then we get depressed. But if we see the opportunities, understand our limitations and then take action within that tension then we can have an impact on one area. And we leave room for someone else to see the other opportunity and have an impact as well.

                You can make a difference, not necessarily in all, but definitely for some.

                 

                Biblical Principles of Youth Discipleship

                Posted: 
                Friday, March 6, 2020

                The article Biblical Principles of Youth Discipleship was first published on YouthWorker.com. I have added a section into The Process of Discipleship section, because I believe that some practical aspects are helpful as well.

                Biblical Principles of Youth Discipleship

                Larry Lindquist

                Defining discipleship can be difficult. At times, I feel like jazz great Duke Ellington, who was asked for a definition of rhythm. “If you got it, you don’t need no definition,” he responded. “And, if you don’t got it, ain’t no definition gonna help!”

                Most of us in youth ministry have a tacit understanding of what we want our students to know/believe/experience/do before they leave our ministry; but many leaders lack a clear definition of discipleship, and this lack of clarity may hinder efforts to guide students toward being full-blown disciples of Christ.

                The Bible tells us about three key aspects of this important topic:
                • Dimensions of Discipleship (What knowledge, experience and relationships are essential?)
                • The Process of Discipleship (How does one become a disciple?)
                • The Marks of a Disciple? (What is the nature Christ-likeness, and what curriculum can we use to teach this?)

                In reality, most of us emphasize one dimension of discipleship more than the others. Some of us default to the practices that helped us grow. Perhaps taking a serious look at the subject will help us be more theological and intentional in our approaches.

                The Four Dimensions of Discipleship
                Luke 2:52 gives us a window into the adolescent years of Jesus, telling us that He grew in two ways: horizontally (in favor with man) and vertically (in favor with God). These two dimensions also are modeled in the cross. Vertical discipleship includes being reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10), while horizontal discipleship means we must be reconciled with others (Matthew 5:24; Matthew 25:40).

                This two-dimensional approach is superior to the one-dimensional “Jesus-and-me” approach promoted by some leaders. Although the vertical dimension is critically important, no one can grow as a disciple of Christ in isolation.

                Still, I don’t think the two-dimensional model goes far enough in describing the multi-dimensional reality of human experience. I prefer a four-sided approach modeled on the pyramid, which has three visible sides and a base. I use the pyramid model to illustrate the following four dimensions of discipleship.
                 
                A) Belief—This is the cognitive side of making a disciple. What are the core beliefs students need to know to provide them with a biblical foundation? Teaching and rehearsing these foundational truths is a critically important dimension of discipleship. Romans 10:2 speaks of those who “have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.” It is a scary thing to observe ignorance on fire! Yet in our effort to disciple students, we sometimes have more zeal than knowledge, more pep rally than content. The reverse can be true, as well, when we create brilliant slugs.

                B) Relationship—Accountability comes with relationship. Fruit of the Spirit is exhibited in community. In John 13:35, Jesus tells us exactly how people will be able to recognize His disciples, and it is not by how well they do on a Jesus pop-quiz. He reminds us that we will be identified as His disciples by our love for one another. The knowledge is important, but the context of community is where discipleship is practiced and observed.

                C) Conviction—This backside of the pyramid may be unobservable at times, although vital to discipleship. This is the passion that drives our obedience. Without it, students are simply duty-driven in following Christ. Paul speaks of this dimension of discipleship in 2 Corinthians 5:14 where he declares the love of Christ compels him because he is convinced. These two words are filled with passion and personal conviction.

                Here are three concepts you need to understand. Orthodoxy means I know the right things. Orthopraxy means I do the right things. Orthopathos means I have right passion and conviction to motivate me. If we ignore this attitudinal dimension (as difficult as it is to observe or measure), our discipleship endeavor is simply the dead obedience of legalism.

                D) Mystery—This fourth dimension of discipleship is the hidden base of the entire pyramid. Though often overlooked, the role of the Holy Spirit in discipleship is an essential dimension that we cannot orchestrate, manipulate or control.

                How often have you planned a discipleship event that seemingly fails to produce any fruit? Then later, at a time and place when you least expect it, God decides to move in and students are profoundly changed. We plan, plant and water, but growth and sanctification are under God’s control (1 Corinthians 3:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:23). It is His timing, and there’s not a thing we can do to manipulate it. Prayer is our most powerful resource in cultivating this mysterious dimension of discipleship.

                The Path and Pace of Discipleship
                God has wired each of us differently; although we might embrace this conceptually, we don’t always acknowledge it practically when we disciple students. Each of us experiences God differently; and the rhythm and pace of our growth will vary, as well.

                In his book Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas identifies nine paths of spiritual formation. The naturalist grows closer to God while summiting a 14,000-foot peak in the Rockies or looking in awe at a spectacularly starry night. The intellectual finds God most profoundly in the pages of the Bible and books of theology. The enthusiasts encounter God when they participate in full-throttle, unashamed worship. The ascetic finds spiritual growth in the places of quiet solitude with God.
                Students who may experience nothing while having their “quiet time” may be profoundly deepened in their relationship with Christ while actively helping the poor or building a home for the homeless. One size does not fit all.

                One of the most common and costly mistakes made by youth leaders while discipling students is the assumption that their students will encounter God most profoundly in the same way the leaders themselves did.

                Part of the cure is to accept the idea that God has wired students differently. The other part is to identify how our students are wired and lean into their lives appropriately. Youth ministries that focus on a single type of spiritual path will frustrate the discipleship of those who need other paths.

                The New Testament depicts the disciples’ variety of pathways and pacing.

                The Apostle Paul was biblically accurate and theologically sound. He was well-trained and wrote letters filled with deep truth and instruction. Maybe you have some students in your group who find spiritual growth through profound study of God’s Word. How should you disciple them?

                Thomas seemed to experience God most profoundly when he could see, touch and speak with Him. Although some of us have been a bit skeptical and suspicious of our senses, there are those such as Thomas who find in them an important part of their spiritual growth. Henri Nouwen sat in front of Rembrandt’s painting “The Return of the Prodigal” for days, visually learning the detailed story the painting told. I’m too ADHD to spend three hours staring at a painting. However, music, strong visual presentations and experiences such as touching the roughness of a cross may be exactly the way some of your students find deep, significant, spiritual insight. How would you disciple a sensate such as Thomas?

                Peter was emotional and impetuous. He had a short fuse. He hacked off ears and blurted out statements that came back to bite him. It seemed Jesus had to repeat things to Peter a few times before they stuck. He tended to act and then think. I anticipate if we had Peter in our worship service, he would be jumping on chairs or on his knees. Yet, he seemed to grow most deeply when he was actively engaged with Christ. Peter wept bitterly when he realized how he had hurt Christ, and ultimately he died a martyr’s death. How would you disciple an enthusiast such as Peter?

                Some additional thoughts. The above helps young people to connect with God in meaningful ways, which is very important. Too often as youth leaders we connect youth to ourselves, our leaders and our churches but they need their primary connection to be with God. Our part in their discipleship is also to:

                • Walk with them as they have questions, not necessarily giving them answers, but helping them find the answers for themselves.
                • Help them connect with the whole body of Christ, not just youth group. A connection with the broader Church will set them up better for when they graduate from school/university. They will still have a family and relationships to help sustain them.
                • Help them find a place to serve. Discipleship isn't just about what they know and believe, but about serving others with our abilities
                • Walk with them on their journey to find purpose. They may or may not find their calling or purpose while in school, but you can help them understand how God has shaped them, using tools like we talked about with Knowing Your Team

                Marks of a Disciple 
                If our goal in youth ministry is to graduate fully devoted followers of Christ, then describe what it means to be such a follower. I am amazed by the quizzical looks and the pushback I receive when I have that conversation with youth leaders. Some resist creating lists of behaviors, fearing the rigidity of legalism. Others create a vague, fuzzy picture of some uber-spiritual creature that sounds wonderful but unrealistic.

                I believe most leaders never have articulated a clear description of a discipled student. When students graduate from your ministry, how will they be defined? What is your curriculum for Christ-likeness? If you don’t have a clear understanding of where we want them to be when they leave our ministry, they will have a difficult time knowing what is expected. Aim at nothing and you’ll hit it.

                Sometimes we better grasp a concept by understanding its opposite. In his book The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard includes a chapter titled “Curriculum for Christlikeness” in which he describes what this curriculum is not:
                It is not simply external conformity.
                It is not special experiences.
                It is not faithfulness to the church or a profession of perfectly held doctrine.

                When I have asked students in my courses at Denver Seminary to begin writing a definition of a fully devoted follower of Christ, their descriptions include the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and other great biblical citations.

                Let me challenge you to do a similar exercise. Create your best definition of discipleship, keeping your “finger in the Text” and resisting the press of political correctness, as well as cultural relevance.

                New Testament Models of Discipleship: Paul and Jesus
                Explore with me the words Paul wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica and the words of Jesus as He defines those who would be His disciples.

                In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul commends the Thessalonican believers for following his example. Then in 1 Thessalonians 2, Paul describes himself so they better can understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

                First, Paul cites his perseverance under great persecution (1 Thessalonians 2:2). Nothing makes him quit. No temptation makes him cave. When push comes to shove, Christ wins over everything—even his life. He doesn’t own his faith, Christ owns him!

                Second, Paul is pure in his motives and his statements (1 Thessalonians 2:3). He speaks truth and never seeks to manipulate others. His language and motivation is pure.
                Third, he is a God-pleaser not a man-pleaser (1 Thessalonians 2:4-6). Fully devoted followers of Jesus give up the whole idea of trying to manage what others think about them. What a freeing thing never to need the applause of anyone but God. We need to ask ourselves if we are content with the idea of being forgotten by everyone but God. There will be no plaques, memorials, awards or buildings bearing our name. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).

                Fourth, Paul was a giver, not a taker (1 Thessalonians 2:6-9). In the great in-and-out box of life, the disciple of Jesus gives more than receives. Travel light. Instill in your students the habit of holding their material possessions with an open hand. Practice giving stuff away and live with less.

                Fifth, Paul claims to have lived a blameless life before a watching world (1 Thessalonians 2:10). Blamelessness is not perfection. A blameless life is one without disclaimers. If we find ourselves repeating, “Yeah, but…” in our effort to rationalize or justify our behavior, we are no longer living a blameless life. Fully devoted followers of Jesus do not live a life of disclaimers. Paul challenged the Christians in Ephesus not to allow even a “hint of immorality be spoken of them” (Ephesians 5:3). How often have our lives displayed more than a hint?

                In these two passages, Jesus describes those who follow Him:
                “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).
                “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

                Following Christ requires dying to our agenda and comfort. As Bonhoeffer suggests, when Jesus calls us, He bids us come and die.

                Finally, Jesus says, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33).

                A fully devoted follower of Christ surrenders everything to Christ. As we pray the Lord’s Prayer and we get to, “Thy Kingdom come,” we must first pray, “My kingdom, go!” We cannot be fully devoted until we have fully surrendered our agenda, our life, our rights and our expectations.

                The dimensions of discipleship, the path and pace of discipleship, and the marks of discipleship provide a solid foundation on which we can discuss methodology. Without that foundation, our discipleship endeavor will be susceptible to fads and formulas that may provide immediate but unsustainable growth.

                For further reading:
                Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
                Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal
                Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways
                Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy

                Baptize All Nations

                Posted: 
                Thursday, March 5, 2020

                The Bible Project

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, March 4, 2020

                The Bible can be a complicated book, especially if you have never been taught about it's structures, styles, authors etc. So it is important not just to tell our young people to read the Bible, but give them tools to help them understand it.

                The Bible Project is a YouTube channel with short videos that help explain different aspects of The Bible. Hopefully, this will help youth be less confused and more likely to read their Bible.

                 

                What resources have you seen that would help with this important area?

                Just Stop It

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, March 3, 2020

                Not the most recommended form of counselling or pastoral care, but amusing all the same.

                March - Discipleship & Pastoral Care Month

                Posted: 
                Monday, March 2, 2020

                Our theme for the month of March is discipleship and pastoral care.

                The Great Commission tells us to go into all the world and make disciples. We use programs, fun, small groups etc, but we do them with the purpose of discipling young people. Taking them from wherever they are in their relationship with God and moving them to greater understanding, greater relationship and more Christ-likeness.

                This month we want to explore discipleship, teaching calendars, crisis and counselling, as well as some resources that can help us and the youth we lead.

                We hope this topic is helpful for you, as you serve this generation.

                Defending Our Faith

                Posted: 
                Friday, February 28, 2020

                Apologetics is the logical defense of our faith. It has its place and it is good to have a working knowledge of the various arguments for and against our faith. Having said that, there is only a percentage of people who will come to faith through pure logic. In my experience, respectful discussion around logical barriers to faith can be a part of people's journey, but is rarely the tipping point.

                Having said that, some arguments can cause young people to question their faith, and so I encourage you to equip yourself and your youth with knowledge. When engaging in a discussion, remember some key things

                1. God is a big God and doesn't need us to defend him
                2. God is more interested in love, dignity and relationship than winning an argument
                3. Love people

                There are also some good guidelines at CARM.org

                I recommend you look for resources that you can engage with, but below are a few that are around:

                Please make sure you always express truth with love.

                If you know of any helpful resources then please share them in the comments.

                By Our Love They Will Know

                Posted: 
                Thursday, February 27, 2020

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                Ministry in Schools

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, February 26, 2020

                Schools are a fantastic opportunity to reach into our community. There are always needs that we can serve and ways we can connect with young people who may never come to our youth groups otherwise.  A lot of this comes down to yoru availability and resources, but think about how you as a youth ministry are engaging with your school. Some initial ideas:

                • encourage and develop your youth to engage or lead a Christian group in their school
                • organise a clean up event to spruce the school up
                • coach a sports team
                • buy the staff easter eggs or hot cross buns for Easter
                • become a teacher aide
                • speak to your local principal or the head administrator about what needs the schools have
                • run leadership programs (Habitudes from US is one I recommend)
                • run life skills programs

                Below are a number of websites that also have ideas and ways for you to engage in a meaningful way.

                God Talk has some resources and ideas you can utilise

                101 Ideas from New Generation in UK might help you

                24-7 YouthWork is a New Zealand organisataionthat gets Christian youth works into schools with some paid hours of work

                Church Leaders in the US has some ideas and thoughts as well that might help.

                 

                Would love to hear what efforts and initiatives you have tried in schools. What has worked and what hasn't?

                Blog tags: 

                Bike Gymnasium Video

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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                Our Privilege, Our Responsibility And Our Authority

                Posted: 
                Monday, February 24, 2020

                2 Corinthians 5:20 - Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

                We are Christ's ambassadors. Ambassadors represent their king and country to the country of their current residence. We are representatives of God's kingdom to this world. This role is a privilege, a responsibility and has a sense of authority.

                 

                Our Privilege

                Being a representative of the king is a great honour and privilege. It is a position of trust and respect.

                Have you paused recently and thanked God for the privilege of being his representative to your world. To the young people in your youth ministry, to your family, to your work mates, to your team mates, to the checkout operator.

                You are trusted by God to be his representative to a world that needs him.

                 

                Our Responsibility

                It is our responsibility to represent the king accurately. To speak and act in a way that reflects his priorities and his character.

                Have you considered how you are fulfilling your responsibilities? Not necessarily the job description of your role in youth ministry. Not the spoken or unspoken expectations that are placed on you by leaders, parents and youth. But the responsibilities that God has placed on us to be salt and light, to be agents of his love and grace and truth.

                We have a responsibility, but not one that we have to carry alone. We have the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and teach us. Giving us power, wisdom and all we need in each moment.

                 

                Our Authority

                An ambassador speaks with the authority of the king. He does not speak for himself, his words carry the weight of the kingdom.

                1 Peter 4:11a says If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.

                Matthew 18:18 says "Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

                We are entrusted with the words of God, with his authority, to speak, to bind, to loose. To see God's kingdom take ground. What are you doing today to exercise God's authority in your world?

                 

                Today, remember that we are ambassadors for Christ. We have the privilege, the responsibility and the authority to represent Christ to our world.

                Your Testimony

                Posted: 
                Friday, February 21, 2020

                Our testimony is a powerful thing. Revelation 12:11a even says "They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;"

                Preparing your own testimony and helping your youth prepare theirs is important. Rather than reinvent the wheel though, below are the links to three articles that will help you in this process.

                Your Story is God’s Story: Creating Your Testimony

                Preparing Your Personal Testimony

                How to Write Your Personal Testimony

                Blog tags: 

                The Way, The Truth, The Life

                Posted: 
                Thursday, February 20, 2020

                Local Evangelism Resources

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, February 19, 2020

                New Zealand has some great resources being developed to help revitalize evangelism within our nation.

                 

                I have already previously shared about GodTalk, a youth based resource to help local youth ministries establish a culture of evangelism. Go and check it out GodTalk and my post.


                All Together NZ is the big church brother to GodTalk. There are resources and national intiatives. There is also a tested and proven system to develop a culture of evangelism in the local church and youth ministry.

                The system has 3 components:

                1. Annual sermon series that focusses on evangelism, gospel etc
                2. Small group studies that partner with the sermon series to engage people in discussion around evangelism topics
                3. Monthly highlighting of evangelism, specifically testimonies of people who have tried to share their faith, both successful and unsuccessful. This can the be the leader, a youth, or even a video of someone's experience.

                If you want to build a culture of evangelism, then implementing these types of systems will help.


                Unashamed is an initiative that is focussed on every young person in Aotearoa reached with the message of Jesus.

                They exist for two reasons; to reach the young people of New Zealand with the message of Jesus and to raise up a movement of young people committed to doing the same.

                They speak the language of today’s youth, using the creative arts alongside dynamic speaking and storytelling to communicate the message of Jesus in ways young people understand and connect with. They will not stop until every young person in Aotearoa is reached with the message of Jesus!

                 

                 


                Check out these resources and let us know of any that you know about.

                Blog tags: 

                Waiting For My Wife

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, February 18, 2020

                Blog tags: 

                Are We Too Busy?

                Posted: 
                Monday, February 17, 2020

                I have been thinking recently about the need for a move of God in the young people of our nation. I have also recently read the book "God's General's The Revivalists".

                The thing I noticed about the moves of God in the book, and from what I know about other more modern moves of God, they can take up a lot of time. People travel extensively. There can be multiple services where there used to be only one.

                Everyone prays for revival or a move of God, but I am not sure we are prepared for the disruption that it would take.

                I wonder if we are too busy for a move of God.

                I know priorities shift in those seasons. I know they can be exceptional times. But I wonder if we can take some steps now to give God more room. Build some margin into your life so that every day isn't filled and every night is busy.

                Margin is a healthy habit, whether we are wanting a move of God or not.

                Can I encourage you to pray about your schedule. Also, pray about the young people of our nation. I believe they need a touch of God and our country needs a move of God.

                Turning A Conversation To Spiritual Things

                Posted: 
                Friday, February 14, 2020

                Taking conversations into spiritual topics is rarely done by accident. Intentional Christians can lead people there. And people who may be going through a challenging time may voluntarily go to those topics. Most other conversations don't naturally give opportunity, and yet spirituality is a major part of our life.

                So how do we take that step in our conversations? Below are some thoughts.

                1) Genuinely care about the person

                Genuinely caring means that you get to know them. It also means that you care enough discuss important topics that have the potential to become awkward.

                The issue people often have with street preachers and tweets "proclaiming the truth", is a lack of connection. There is a lack of context and a lack of care for the individual receiving it.

                Someone who has recently suffered a loss needs to hear about a loving God and a suffering saviour, more than how they are a sinner in need of forgiveness.

                So get to know people. Know their name and use it during the conversation.

                Ask appropriate questions about them and listen to their answers. Respond according to their answers rather than forcing the conversation down your planned track..

                "When I really pay attention to what someone is saying, I am in a much better position to logically connect their words with truth about who God is and what He has done." - Faith Church Blog

                 

                2) Understand the levels of conversation

                Level 1 - Surface topics
                These are topics like the weather, sports teams, current news items etc.

                Level 2 - Personal topics
                These are subjects like their family, their job, their interests, how they spend their free time etc.

                Level 3 - Religious background
                This is a toe in the water, where we ask about their background with church and religion.

                Level 4 - Spiritual topics
                Finding out about their beliefs and their position to God & Jesus.

                When navigating various topics and levels, self-disclosure is important. If you open up about a certain topic, it gives you at least the opportunity to ask them about the same topic. They may not be comfortable to disclose or discuss some of those topics so be sensitive.

                 

                3) Learn to ask good questions

                There are lots good lists of questions, but you need to find ones you are comfortable with and can ask naturally. When discussing spiritual topics, there are three helpful questions that I have come across at GodTalk. They are:

                1. What did you mean by that?
                2. Where did you get that idea from?
                3. Have you considered...?

                And of course, don't just ask the questions, but listen to the answers.

                 

                4) Pay attention

                A conversation, at whatever level, is a two way street and we need to learn to understand how the other person is responding. Not just their verbal answers but their body language as well. If the other person starts becoming hostile or they start to withdraw, then read the signs. For now you can return to safer topics and look for future opportunities when they may be in a better space.

                Sometimes it is not the topic as much as the timing or setting. Most of us have had the marketing phone call or person knocking on the door. When do they usually interrupt us? When we are preparing or eating dinner. Our response is usually negative, even though it may be a good deal, because their timing is off.

                We need to be sensitive to these as well.

                 

                5) Behave well

                We have already mentioned the need to open up about ourselves, but making sure they are the main focus. I will add a further two thoughts that I have around our behaviour.

                1. Don't pretend to have answers, when you don't know.
                Nothing puts people off more than when they feel like someone is fake. If they have a question about God or your faith, and you don't have an answer, then be honest. "That is a great question. I have never thought about that. Is it ok if I look into that and we can discuss it next time?" That is an acceptable response.

                2. Be passionate without turning political
                So often Christians are more known for what they are against, than what they are for. We can often have strongly held beliefs that we want to defend and explain. But we need to get our priorities right. The person is more important than the point. The relationship is more important than a point of disagreement. In these instances, I suggest you allow them to share their perspective. Listen to them, ask clarifying questions, restate their position to ensure you have clearly understood. If they are able to listen and absorb, then ask permission to share your perspective. If given the opportunity then politely, and passionately, state your position. If they have questions, let them ask and try to clarify.

                Interactions and conversations are never an exact science, which leads me to my final point.

                 

                6) Pray, before, during and after

                Bathe your interactions in prayer.

                Before you have these conversations pray. Pray for faith, for courage, for wisdom, for favour, that they would be open to hearing,

                During the conversation, if things are going well then take a moment to thank God in your heart. If it is getting curly then pray again for wisdom and favour. Again, pray in your heart, out loud would be a little off putting for the other person.

                Afterwards, pray that the words would find root in their heart, that God would continue to work in them. Pray that you would learn and grow from the experience, and that you would be ready for the next opportunity.

                 

                Conclusion

                The skill of turning conversations to spiritual topic can be learned, and is best learned from practicing it. It is an important area of everyone's life and we should lead the conversation to help people find a relationship with the God that loves them.

                Lord Of The Harvest

                Posted: 
                Thursday, February 13, 2020

                Dare 2 Share

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, February 12, 2020

                Dare 2 Share is a ministry based in the United States that has a focus on building ministry mindsets that have a Gospel advancing philosophy. Within their website you will see that they equip teens to share their faith and youth leaders to build youth ministries that advance the Gospel.

                Evangelism accelerates the discipleship process. If your students are involved in sharing the gospel then they’ll grow in their faith faster than any curriculum can take them through.

                There are loads of resources, including some apps, that will help your youth ministry become more Gospel advancing, and see lives changed.

                Go to their website to see what they have that can help you.

                Cows With Guns

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, February 11, 2020

                I was reminded of this song during a silly conversation with some youth about the uprising of seals, taking over the world with uzis. The joy of funny chats and random thoughts. Enjoy.

                Eyes To See

                Posted: 
                Monday, February 10, 2020

                I often pray that I would have eyes to see, ears to hear and a heart that would respond. I pray that for you today as well.

                Eyes to see. Not just eyes that observe circumstances and facts, but eyes that perceive things below the surface. Eyes that would see beyond the physical to the spiritual, emotional and relational aspects of the situation you are in. Eyes that don't filter what is happening based on how it impacts our schedule or our priorities, but that see how someone might need us today. Eyes that see with a filter of love and grace. Eyes that aren't looking just to the future or the possible, but that are present in this moment, experiencing and enhancing the people and organisations we are with right now.

                Ears to hear. Ears that don't just hear the words, but hears the words behind the words. That hears the meaning and the depth behind the words a that are spoken. Ears attuned to what the Holy Spirit might be saying, as well as the people we are with. Ears that are attuned to the people in front of us more than the notifications of the cell phone beside us. Ears that don't listen for the pause for our turn, but truly listening to what is being said. Ears that hear opportunities to show God's love.

                Heart that would respond. It is not enough just to see and hear, but we must respond. Whether the response is one that brings about change within our own life, or whether it is a response that gets us involved in someone else's life, we must lean towards action. It is not enough to hear or see someone who is struggling, we must reach out and help them.

                This week, may you see, hear and respond with God's love and grace in each situation.

                Confidence In The Cross

                Posted: 
                Friday, February 7, 2020

                In a world where the highest virtue is tolerance, it can be challenging to maintain our beliefs. And even harder to confidently share our faith.

                In one sense, Christianity is polarizing. We use language like "saved" and "unsaved". The scriptures have passages like John 14:6 - 'Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"'. We believe that faith and salvation is through one man. There aren't many doors to the same God, there is one, Jesus Christ.

                But we are also called to love others. To take an inclusive position. One that welcomes all, no matter their status, their issues etc. There is one door, but many paths that lead to it.

                In a world where "truth" is subjective, we hold a position that we have and know the truth, and that it is a universal truth.

                The outcome for some, when living in this tension and this environment, is questioning. Confidence in the face of some counter-arguments and "logic" can be shaken and even lost. For others, the outcome is silence. They maintain their beliefs but dare not actively share their faith for fear of being marginalized or pushed aside as a bigot.

                There are some who make a stand for their faith on street corners or in marches, publicly declaring their position. Trying to communicate their beliefs and how they oppose the beliefs of our culture. Not always, but so often this is a one-way declaration.

                Some choose to focus on justice. They spend their time and energy feeding the poor and/or homeless. Caring for those who are going through difficult times. Their expression of faith and love is primarily through action. Many of those that I know will try to find opportunities to talk about their faith as well. But some get so caught up in the action that they forget that the gospel is also about truth and a soul that needs to hear it.

                Others find or make opportunities in their day to day rhythm to share their faith and God's love. Opportunities with work-mates, family, friends, team-mates, class-mates, strangers etc. They don't push, and miss some opportunities, but do their best to not back down.

                I know I can walk through a whole week, going about my daily activities, and not once think about the souls of the people around me. I also know that I have side-stepped opportunities to speak up or pray for someone in need. I often avoid these chances because of the doubts that creep in. "What if I pray and nothing happens?" "What if I say something that turns them off God?" "I have to see these people everyday, what if it all goes horribly wrong?"

                How ever you are living out your faith, we must ensure we live with confidence in the cross and resurrection. The cross is central to our faith and message. We need to be confident that it was sufficient. Confident that Christ was a sufficient sacrifice for all sins and brokenness. That his teachings and example were sufficient as an example on how we should live. That the Holy Spirit is sufficient to lead us and empower us for His purposes.

                Life is complex. The answer is rarely some catchy cliche. But I honestly believe that love, hope and purpose are found in a relationship with our loving God, who created us.

                Hebrews 10:32-35 talks to people who have faced difficulty, stood in the face of challenges, stood by those who were persecuted. It finishes with "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded." If I were to modernise the verses and put them into the context of western society, it might go something like this:

                "Remember after you began following Jesus, maybe people questioned if you had lost your mind, or if it would last. Or maybe they pushed you away as a religious weirdo. Sometimes you were ignored and accused of being a hater and a bigot. Labelled as someone who was following a dead religion that didn't make sense with modern science or society. They claim it is a religion that hated people who were different. You tried to stand your ground but didn't always feel you had the right words, you believed, you had experiences and you knew what God had done in your life. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded."

                Don't lose the foundational confidence in Christ, the cross, the resurrection, the Holy Spirit and God's love. Even Paul had moments where he didn't try to eloquently explain or defend the faith, he simply preached Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)

                Let's take that confidence into each interaction with the people around us. The world needs people who can stand with confidence in their God and their faith.

                God Loved Us First - 1 John 4:10

                Posted: 
                Thursday, February 6, 2020

                What Is The Gospel?

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, February 5, 2020

                For us to fully present the Gospel to our community, and to our youth, we need to understand what it is. I recommend watching these videos, and then taking 30 minutes to write a summary of the gospel for yourself. It is helpful to have this clear in our own minds, so that we can then teach others.

                 

                The Best of Shires

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, February 4, 2020

                I am sure this is painful humour to some. Whether it causes a chuckle or a groan, I hope it is mildly amusing at some level.

                Blog tags: 

                February - Community & Evangelism month

                Posted: 
                Monday, February 3, 2020

                Our theme for the month of February is outreach, evangelism and our community.

                Sharing the gospel is not just a good idea, it is one of our greatest responsibilities. Training and empowering the young people in our youth ministries is something we should schedule into our programs. We should preach about the gospel as well as discuss evangelism in small groups. We should be looking at how we engage with schools and our community.

                This month we want to look at the basics of the gospel and how to integrate it into our youth ministry context. Looking at the use of testimonies and conversations.

                We hope this topic is helpful for you, as you serve this generation.

                The Importance of Community

                Posted: 
                Friday, January 31, 2020

                If we are not careful, we can let leadership isolate us. We don't intend to, but there is added responsibility that others might not have. There is added accountability that others might not have. There may be extra knowledge that others might not be trusted with. There is an intrinsic risk related to people knowing our weaknesses or struggles. If not handled correctly, these things (and more) can isolate us.

                And so we need to be intentional about building community around us.

                In investment, they talk about risk and reward. The higher the risk, the higher the reward, but also the higher the chance of losses. In community, it can be the same thing. To have true community takes risk, but when it works, the pay-off is worth it.

                When I talk about true community, I am talking about people that love you. They love you with all your flaws and weaknesses. They love you with your strengths. They love you with your idiosyncracies. They also love you to the point of addressing your issues directly to your face.

                Sadly, our churches have not always been the best example of these types of community, even though I believe it is what was intended. All of us are hurt and broken people. And we are trying to come together to help each other and reach out to others, through that pain and brokenness.

                As a leader, it is one of our jobs to be in a community that cares for us. And it is our responsibility to create a community for our youth and families that cares for them. So what can we do.

                 

                1. Understand and process our own brokenness

                If we want to be in community, then we need to understand that we enter every interaction with our own "stuff". We have a worldview that has been shaped by our interpretation of our life experiences. That worldview colours how we approach people and situations. Some aspects of who you are and how you see the world are part of who God made you to be. Some aspects are not.

                So try to be as self-aware as you are able. But don't stop at being self-aware. Actively look for those areas that need to be aligned more with Christ and his Word. And do something to fix them. That may mean a counsellor. That may mean attending courses like Cleansing Streams or similar. Of course, some of our brokenness is only fixed in a community. Iron sharpens iron, as it were.

                When we understand and process our own brokenness, we enter into community with humility and tolerance.

                 

                2. Understand the circles of trust

                Jesus had crowds of people around him, but he kept them at a distance, teaching them with parables with no explanation. We see him empowering and sending out 72 people to carry the kingdom. He had 12 that walked with him from day to day. He had three that he kept closer than the others. And one gospel records a disciple who was considered "beloved".

                If Jesus is our example, then we need to find those similar groups.

                • A small group who sees at us at our most vulnerable (Garden of Gethsemane), who sees the true us (Mount of Transfiguration), who we trust. ("The three")
                • A slightly larger group who we do life with, who we journey with. They share our moments, highs and lows, and we share theirs. (The twelve)
                • A broader group who largely share our worldview and some of our priorities, willing to be part of our life for whatever season they are meant to. (The 72)
                • The crowd are those that just happen to be around you, who may engage with us.

                 

                3. Find and engage a suitable "three" and "twelve"

                If we are serious about our spiritual health, then we will actively look for a community where we can be known, loved and grow. This can be complicated for leaders within the parameters of our local church. There will be some who just can't help but expect you to be perfect or better than the average Christian. They may struggle if you open up about any of your struggles, whether they are spiritual, theological, relational, sinful or whatever.

                If you can pray and look to engage those smaller groups of the "three" and the "twelve" then you set yourself up for longer term health, both personally and as a leader.

                These can be hard to find and along the way you may find some threes that end up being twelves in the long run, or twelves that develop into threes. Just be wise about how far and how fast you let people deeper into your world. It can be costly to trust someone who later proves to not be trustworthy. Having said that, don't withhold connection unduly. We can become overly cautious and end up being isolated.

                 

                4. Be prepared for pain

                The reality is that letting people into our life is inherently risky. People are broken and sometimes you trust people beyond their capacity to be trusted. Even if they are good people who are trustworthy and you have a strong relationship, life can change and they move towns or countries for their next season. And that loss can have an impact our us.

                All I can say, is to learn to grieve well. If you grieve well, then you come out the other side feeling the loss without it closing you off to future opportunities to connect. How do you grieve well? I am not sure I am expert but some thoughts are:

                1. Acknowledge that you are feeling loss or pain, don't bury it
                2. Understand that you may never get closure or an explanation from the other person
                3. Take it to God and release it to him
                4. Talk it over with someone experienced and trustworthy
                5. Figure out if there is any part that you played in whatever occurred, and try and learn any lessons there are to learn.

                 

                Community is hard. It is messy. It is risky. It is worth it.

                Nothing Can Separate Us From His Love - Romans 8:35

                Posted: 
                Thursday, January 30, 2020

                Boundaries and Balance from Richard Black

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, January 29, 2020

                I first heard Richard Black at a youth leaders day being hosted by Assemblies of God NZ. He is from Strength to Strength, a counselling and training organisation.

                His talk on that day was very similar to the video below. I believe it is important for leaders to understand these principles in order to maintain health, boundaries, balance, and to last for the long term. Please watch, enjoy and implement the principles.

                 

                Brandon Farris

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, January 28, 2020

                This video was my first experience watching Brandon Farris. He may not be everyone's cup of tea but I found this hilarious. If you like this, you should also look for his videos where he eats freeze dried tarantulas, they made me laugh so hard I cried.

                Living Out Of Relationship

                Posted: 
                Monday, January 27, 2020

                One aspect of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever."

                Over time we can lose our focus and may start living out of wrong motives. Maybe it is out of obligation or duty, or out of rules or laws, or a sense of calling, or any other number of motivations.

                Today I want to encourage you to remember that our life, our faith and our ministry come out of a place of relationship first.

                If you feel like your faith is mostly about doing the right things out of duty or obligation, like you owe God something, then you need to reset your thinking. There is some truth, that God has done marvelous things for us, things that we could never repay. But our faith and life should not be lived out of some sense that we owe God anything. I am reminded of a clip from Big Bang Theory where Sheldon thought he was prepared to give a gift to Penny of equal value to her gift. But when he received the gift, he valued it so greatly that his only response was over the top and built connection with Penny. We should respond similarly. We have received greatly, we should respond by throwing ourselves into connection and relationship with God. I believe that is what he would want.

                If you feel like your faith is about rules or laws, then you need to reset. God wants the best for us and there are principles that he has set in place that helps us receive his best. There are also times when we ignore his principles and his requests for our attention, and we need to restore relationship through repenting and restoration. The main issue when we turn from God, is not the wrong itself, it is the resulting breaking in relationship that God cares about it. That is what the cross was all about. It was God saying, "I have made a way that we can always come back to relationship".

                A sense of calling is an honourable thing to carry, but ultimately calling came out of relationship, and should be sustained by relationship. Our faith should not be based on what we believe our current assignment or our life purpose might be. Our life should come first from relationship with God, and out of that the calling flows. To focus on the calling and ignore the relationship is like listening to a recording of a song, but ignoring the artist standing in front of you who wrote or performed the song.

                Live first out of relationship. Embrace gratefulness for God's gifts, don't feel obligated to repay him. Honour the principles that God has put in place, but know that his love and grace is there for the times when we fail. Don't focus on the calling, focus on the one who called and empowers you.

                Have a great week and may your relationship with God continue to grow.

                Adjusting To The Rhythm

                Posted: 
                Friday, January 24, 2020

                I had a conversation with a younger leader a while ago. He was bemoaning the lack of spirituality in his life. His benchmark was from a few years earlier when he was single and would meet with a couple of friends to pray for 30 mins to an hour each morning. His current life involved running a business, his wife and three kids under the age of four, as well as church involvement. And those friends had also moved out of town.

                I gently pointed out to him that while that season of more intense seeking is admirable, he needed to embrace the current season, and its new rhythm. Rather than just remember the "good old days", he needed to discover what was viable now.

                We talked through some options that might work in his specific situation. I believe he began to embrace what spirituality might look like in this season. He gave himself grace for the new season. And he found different ways to develop his spiritual life.

                I haven't met a Christian who would say their spiritual life is as good as it could get. Sometimes this is true because they put in little to no effort or time to develop it. Sometimes it is because they hold themselves to unrealistic expectations. Sometimes it is because they have not learned to embrace the rhythm of their life.

                If improving your spiritual life is one of your goals or resolutions for 2020, then don't fight the rhythm of your life, embrace it and use it.

                If you are naturally a morning person, then get up 15 mins before everyone else and spend time with God. If you are naturally a night owl, then find opportunities at the end of the day. If your home is hectic, then either find space that you can take aside (bathroom or bedroom) or find opportunities when you are out and about to pause. Like when you are driving around, pull over to the side of the road or into a carpark, put on some worship music and take a moment. Talk to God as you go about your day, rather than doing it just once. If you are not a good reader then listen to the Bible with YouVersion or engage with it on The Bible Project channel on YouTube.

                As Christians and as youth leaders, we can never say "I don't have time today". We should be saying "Where can I make time for God today?"

                If we can look at the current rhythms of our life and see where we can add God moments, then we will build the relationship. If we assess how we spend our time and find 15-30 minutes for the sake of God and his kingdom, then we will build our spiritual lives.

                Give yourself grace to understand the current rhythms of your life. Embrace the rhythms but have make a priority on time with God. Don't let excuses get in the way of your spiritual health. Find and make time for God.

                The Lord Is My Help - Psalm 54:4

                Posted: 
                Thursday, January 23, 2020

                Developing Our Beliefs

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, January 22, 2020

                How we live our lives is impacted by our belief system and we should be doing our best to develop a Biblical world view. There are a number of things that can shape our worldview and our perspective of God.

                • Our experiences
                • Things we have learned from people or sources that we trust
                • Our personality and how we interpret things
                • Our hopes and desires

                We all have conscious and sub-conscious beliefs. Some we are aware of, some we never think about. Both shape our behaviours and decisions.

                Today's resource is one avenue for you to explore some beliefs. I encourage you to explore these and other resources, and don't accept or reject them based on your own current bias. But explore their beliefs and conclusions. Test them against the Bible, let God speak to you about them, and then be bold and strong enough to accept those things that need to change.

                Have a look at this website and podcast. I am not saying that I agree with all of their conclusions, but I am willing to engage in the process to refine my beliefs. There are articles, free and paid courses, free ebooks etc

                Website: NT Wright Online

                Podcast: Ask NT Wright Anything

                Let us know what you have read, seen, listened to etc. to develop your understanding of God and beliefs.

                Terry Tate - Office Linebacker

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, January 21, 2020

                These are a bit old but still a classic, enjoy and maybe implement at your church or work.

                God Who Sustains

                Posted: 
                Monday, January 20, 2020

                Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
                Isaiah 40:30-31

                “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
                Matthew 11:28-30

                Whether in youth ministry or not, life has its challenges and seasons where more is required from us. It may feel like it is more than we can cope with, but God sustains us. We are finite beings but we have access to an infinite God.

                Let me give you an example. It has been noted that self-control or will power is a diminishing resource. We can start the day/week/month/year with the best intentions and make good decisions. But as time passes we are not always able to follow through on our intention. A reset point, like a new day/week/month/year can help us to reset and start making the right choices again. Until our will power diminishes again. It has also been discovered that pausing for a moment of prayer when we start to feel weak, creates a reset point for our will power. Which means we are more likely to make good decisions afterwards.

                Now I did say "more likely", because some of our patterns and habits of behaviour take time to change. But it is interesting to note that if we let him, there is resource to sustain us.

                There are some seasons where we are tired, or stressed, or unsure, or full of doubts. God can sustain you if you let him.

                I believe that over and above that, God also wants to bless you. Having enough just to sustain us is ok, but we need more if we are to have enough to give to others. We shouldn't be the starving baker who spends all his time baking for others and never takes care of himself. We also shouldn't be the over-weight baker who eats all that is in his store and never has anything for others.

                God is committed to you for the long-term. He has resources to refresh and renew your soul, to sustain you in whatever season you are in.

                God bless you as you keep Him first, as you care for others from a place of health, or as you find a place of health to serve others from.

                The Value of Community

                Posted: 
                Friday, January 17, 2020

                Western thinking would try to have us focus on the aspects of our faith that are based on individuality. There are some valid aspects to our faith that are individual. Each of us needs to choose faith in Jesus Christ. We can not be saved by someone else's faith. There may be things in our lives and past that God is dealing with as part of your journey in this moment. Things that he is not dealing with in the lives of others in this season.

                But we can't ignore the community aspect of our faith and spirituality. It was not by accident that God designed us to be born into families. It is no accident that the Bible gives imagery of a family (1 TIm 5:1-2).

                How complete is your family? How complete is your community?

                Do you have people who you can go to, who love you and who have experience and wisdom that can impart into your life? Not just ministry input, but spiritual, relational, financial etc. Someone who gives accountability. Who knows the areas that you need to be questioned on, and who will ask you the hard questions. And who you will answer honestly.

                We need people like this. Their grace will allow for our failures (they have probably been there), but their love lifts us to be better.

                Do you have people who walk beside you? People we can do life with. Friends, brothers, sisters etc. People walking this journey of life and faith, sharing the celebrations and heart-breaks of life. They are hopefully people who we share dreams with, and they share their dreams with us.

                Sadly, the statistics regarding friendship in adulthood is not great. It is harder to make friends as adults, with work commitments, family, church etc. There is a sense where you have to be intentional with these relationships, to find and maintain them. Scheduling time together to maintain the connection. It is not "fake" to schedule regular time with friends. By making a plan and scheduling time with brothers and sisters, you are communicating that this is important enough to commit to a time and place. Who is walking with you in life?

                Who are you leading or guiding? The obvious answer for a youth ministry blog is the youth in your church and/or community, and will give that as an answer. But is there a couple of young people that you are especially focussed on, who you are committed to being a safe place for. Who you are committed to seeing grow and being intentional in the time with them? Is it a leader on your team that you are focussed on?

                We need these people because we grow through giving. A stagnant pool eventually becomes a place of death. Life comes when fresh water flows through, not just into us. It is challenging to mentor/coach/develop an individual for their personal growth. They may be experiencing things we have not seen, and we need to walk through it with them. They may have questions that we have never pondered. They will almost definitely have a perspective that you don't on different topics. And we need to enter these relationships and conversations with an open mind. We may have knowledge and experience that they do not, but we can often learn and be challenged by them.

                 

                Our spiritual walk was never meant to be just about you and God. It is not even just you, God and a lost world. It is us as a family, our God, and people who have an invitation to our family. Connection is a crucial part of our spiritual health.

                Light My Path - Psalms 119:105

                Posted: 
                Thursday, January 16, 2020

                Two Bible Reading Resources

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, January 15, 2020

                Below are 2 books which might help you in your journey of Bible reading and Bible study.

                 

                How To Read The Bible For All Its Worth

                It has been quite a number of years since I have read this book, in fact it was probably 20 years ago when I was at Bible College that I engaged with an earlier version. I remember that it was a very useful book in helping me to gain a greater understanding of what I was reading in the Bible.

                Blurb from Amazon

                Understanding the Bible isn't for the few, the gifted, the scholarly. The Bible is accessible. It's meant to be read and comprehended by everyone from armchair readers to seminary students. A few essential insights into the Bible can clear up a lot of misconceptions and help you grasp the meaning of Scripture and its application to your 21st-century life.
                More than half a million people have turned to How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth to inform their reading of the Bible. This third edition features substantial revisions that keep pace with current scholarship, resources, and culture. Changes include:
                * Updated language
                * A new authors' preface
                * Several chapters rewritten for better readability
                * Updated list of recommended commentaries and resources
                Covering everything from translational concerns to different genres of biblical writing, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth is used all around the world. In clear, simple language, it helps you accurately understand the different parts of the Bible---their meaning for ancient audiences and their implications for you today---so you can uncover the inexhaustible worth that is in God's Word. 

                Links for purchasing:

                 


                The Untold Story of the New Testament Church

                I have to be honest that I have not read much of this book, largely due to busy-ness, but it comes highly recommended by someone I trust. Have a read and let me know what you think.

                Blurb from Amazon

                The New Testament is often hard to understand. A major reason is because it is not arranged in chronological order. Paul’s letters, for example, are arranged by size rather than chronologically. This makes the New Testament a bit like a Chinese puzzle. For this reason, one famous Bible scholar said that reading the New Testament letters is like hearing one end of a phone conversation. The book you hold in your hands reconstructs the other end so that you can understand virtually every word.
                The Untold Story of the New Testament Church is a unique Bible handbook that weaves Acts and the Epistles together chronologically... creating one fluid story. This epic volume gives readers a first-hand account of the New Testament drama that is riveting and enlightening. It includes dates, maps and background information about the people, the cities and the events of the first-century Church using a “you-are-there” approach.
                Get up-close and personal with apostles Paul, Peter, James and John and learn of their personal struggles. Understand the circumstances behind each inspired letter they penned. Watch the chaotic swirl of first-century people and events fall into place before your very eyes. Discover what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” really was. Learn what happened to all the apostles after the book of Acts was finished. Be ushered into the living, breathing atmosphere of the first century and uncover the hidden riches found in God’s Word.

                Links for Purchasing:


                We hope these resources help you on your journey to engage and understand God's word in 2020.

                Whose Line - News Casters

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, January 14, 2020

                I enjoy watching Whose Line Is It Anyway? and below is a image version of a Colin Mochrie classic news casters intro. Enjoy.

                Our Loving Father

                Posted: 
                Monday, January 13, 2020

                Our ability to approach God as a loving father is an important one for a healthy spirituality. When we think of God as a father, our dad's can colour our perspective. We need to work through those issues to better understand God, and to gain more health.

                Our perspective of God may be that he is a judgmental or angry deity that is just waiting for us to fail so we can be punished. If that is our view then we may try to minimize the opportunities for failure. We may not attempt things or ask for things we need. We simply get on with what needs to be done and try not to get noticed.

                Our perspective of God may be that he is a benevolent Santa Claus who gives us everything we want and just wants to make us happy. The issue becomes when we go through difficult moments we may spiral. We don't understand why God would let us go through it. We don't understand why we don't always get what we want.

                If our view is of a distant and disengaged God, who is not interested in interacting, then we don't try to connect. Or we don't expect a response when we reach out.

                But a loving father is a balance between guidance, generosity, freedom, boundaries, autonomy and connection. One list of attributes for Father God from iBelieve.com gives us this perspective:

                1. Loving - 1 John 3:1
                2. Kind - Ephesians 2:7-8
                3. Compassionate - Psalms 103:8
                4. Giving - John 3:16
                5. Faithful - Lamentations 3:22-23
                6. Merciful - Ephesians 2:4-5
                7. Strong - Psalm 24:8
                8. Forgiving - 1 John 1:9
                9. Good - Psalms 136:1
                10. Righteous - Psalms 145:17
                11. Caring - Matthew 6:26
                12. Sovereign - Psalms 103:19
                13. Shepherd - Psalms 23:1-3
                14. Ever-Present - Psalms 46:1
                15. Refuge - Psalms 91:1-2
                16. Gracious - Psalms 116:5
                17. Healer - Exodus 15:26
                18. Powerful - Chronicles 29:11-12
                19. One Who Saves - Zephaniah 3:17
                20. Helper - Isaiah 41:10
                21. The One Who Makes All Things New - Revelation 21:5

                 

                Do any of these attributes make your cringe or feel uncomfortable? Those should be the ones that you begin to engage with to understand and accept.

                There are plenty of resources out there to help gain perspective on God as our Father. I encourage you to embrace this aspect of God and find those resources. Pray through the sticking points that inevitably come from our broken world.

                My prayer is that you would walk in the confidence that comes from knowing you are loved and accepted by God, who is a perfect Father.

                Devotion, Study or Preparation

                Posted: 
                Friday, January 10, 2020

                For those in ministry, it can be a blurry line between our personal devotional time and ministry activities. When we approach our quiet times with God, ministry responsibilities come along with us. And in those seasons when ministry responsibilites weigh heavier, it may be all that we are bringing into our times with God.

                The issue becomes when the only interactions we have with God and with scripture is for ministry purposes. We need to learn to make sure that we find the balance, that we have a secure relationship with God personally and separate from ministry responsibilities. We need to stay open to God about any area of our life. The reality is that our current ministry assignment is likely to be only for a season, but our relationship with God should extend for a lifetime. It's like couples who get so focussed on raising their children that they lose their relationship with each other, so that when they become empty nesters, they struggle to reconnect.

                So when we interact with the Bible, we need to be intentional and a bit disciplined about how we are approaching it. Are we approaching it for personal devotional, for study, or for preparation for a ministry opportunity?

                When I use these terms, I define them this way:

                • Devotional reading - reading our Bible with an intention to receive something personally from God. It may be part of a reading program or not, but it is for your soul.
                • Study - reading our Bible with a specific focus, to gain a better understanding or appreciation of something specific. That something may be a deeper look a a specific passage, a topic, a Bible character, a book of the Bible, a word study. In this context, it is for personal growth, but of course may extend into a ministry area.
                • Ministry preparation - this is those times when we are specificially focussed on preparing a sermon or Bible study.

                With our focus this month on personal spirituality, I want to encourage you to make sure that you have devotional and personal study as part of your routine.

                 

                Some thoughts about devotional reading:

                • Have a pen and note paper, or note app with you. We all have moments when our thoughts wander or we get an idea in the middle of doing something else, and we get distracted. With the ability to write those down, you can know that the idea is safe, and you can follow it up later.
                • Before you begin, pray and ask God to speak to you through what you are reading, and then look for those things that speak to you.
                • Take your time when you read. This is not just a task to tick off, it is an opportunity to engage with God's written revelation to us.
                • Mix it up. You may have your daily reading plan, and that has value, but you could also read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting. You could read until something speaks to you, whether that takes 3 chapters or 3 verses.
                • Pick a perspective to read it from, like one of the characters, or third party observer. How would the character or author be feeling in those moments?
                • Ask the scripture questions. What did the original writer mean? What does that mean for today's world? What is God saying to me through this? How can I apply that to my life?
                • Journal - record what you read, what you got out of it and where to from here, so you can look back at it later on. I personally like hand-writing this because it engages the brain in ways that solidifies what I learned. The problem becomes that it is hard to find later if I want it, so I also try to transfer these to Evernote at a later time so it is searchable.
                • Expect to hear from God and for your life to be changed through reading scripture.

                 

                Some thoughts about personal Bible study:

                • Pick a subject that interests or speaks to you. Have one primary question that you are looking to answer, but try not to make it a leading question. So rather than, does the Bible support XYZ, you should ask, what does the BIble say about XYZ?
                • Get some reliable research resources and tools, and from some different perspectives - concordances, commentaries, different Bible versions, Greek/Hebrew dictionaries etc
                • Understand the historical context of passages
                • Understand that this may be a process and not completed in one sitting, in fact it is best not to do in one sitting, as time can help you gain perspective and see different angles.
                • Questions help to gain more insight
                • Make notes and they don't have to be tidy or linear
                • Follow rabbit trails but try to come back to your main question reasonably quickly.
                • Find an outlet for the study, some way to share it, it will help you to clarify and may help others grow as well.

                I hope this has been useful. What types of devotions and study do you do?

                Living Water

                Posted: 
                Thursday, January 9, 2020

                Book - Celebration of Discipline

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, January 8, 2020

                I first read this book over 8 years ago as part of a course and while the language in that version was as little dated, the information was challenging.

                There are three categories of disciplines that are covered here. Inward disciplines, which included meditation, prayer, fasting and study. Outward disciplines, which covered simplicity, solitude, submission and service. And corporate disciplines included confession, worship, guidance and celebration.

                I know I can get stuck on 2-3 of these disciplines as the "go to" regulars, but there is value beyond that, exploring and finding room for other expressions of connection and relationship with God.

                I recommend reading this book and exploring some of these for yourself.

                You might be able to get this through your local library, alternatively you can get this from:

                Morgan Freeman Reviews 2019

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, January 7, 2020

                Some of the language isn't the best, but I found it amusing.

                Drinking Fresh Water

                Posted: 
                Monday, January 6, 2020

                Jesus said to the woman at the well, in John 4, that if she had asked then he would have given her living water. And more than that, that the living water will become a spring of water in her, welling up to eternal life.

                Every day we need the fresh water that can only be received through Jesus. As a Christian who is looking to become more Christ-like, in a world that can have its challenges, we need fresh water each day.

                When you add the responsibility of leadership and ministry, especially with youth and families, we need the fresh water that becomes a spring inside us. For our sake as well as the sake of those we get to lead, we need that to be our daily reality.

                We sometimes forget that we leak. We get caught in a rush and don't pause for the fresh water. We become proficient at the tasks and develop the skills and abilities necessary to perform our tasks day to day, and rely less on fresh water.

                As a Christian and as a leader, I encourage you to come to Jesus each day, knowing that you need the fresh water that can only come from him.

                Schedule Your Sabbath

                Posted: 
                Friday, January 3, 2020

                The idea of a Sabbath day each week for many may seem practically impossible. For many youth leaders I know, they are spare time youth leaders. They work 40+ hours at paid employment outside of ministry. They volunteer their spare time to lead the youth group. They have other responsibilities with family and church etc. So the idea of finding a whole day each week where they rest and connect with God seems unlikely.

                This area is one I continue to struggle with too. So rather than pretend that I have this together, I have found some articles that I hope are helpful.

                Christianity Today has an article, Sabbath Keeping For Pastors with some suggestions. They suggest if you can't find a whole day, then you could try a Sabbath hour, a dedicated time during your week where God and resting in him is the main focus. Try and make some time for a Sabbath Get Away, where you go somewhere overnight, rest and focus on God. The last suggestion is a Technology Sabbath. We easily get distracted by devices, social media, entertainment etc. So try taking 24 hours away from these distractions, and use the time to focus on God instead.

                Faith & Leadership don't give practical tips as much as a different perspective in their article, A Sabbath Way To Lead. Rather than treating it as an escape from responsibilities, God modelled sabbath as an opportunity to enjoy what he had created. He did not try to change or tweak or adjust creation on the seventh day, he just enjoyed it. He changed his perspective from creator to observer and enjoyer of it.

                Artios Magazine talks about the importance of team as it relates to Sabbath in their article, Christ-Centred Rest On Sabbaths Is For Pastors, Too. Priests were expected to minister on the Sabbath, but the New Testament model is team leadership and the priesthood of all believers. And so the responsibilities for our gatherings should be shared around, so that all can enjoy Sabbath.

                Leaders Go Last also has an article that is worth checking out - Modern Christian's Guide For Keeping The Sabbath. It talks about some of the benefits of resting.

                1. Rest revives us and enables better work - if we are becoming weary, then rest helps us to renew ourselves and increases the productivity and creativity when we do work.
                2. Rest allows us to enjoy the work we have done - we can move so fast that we forget to reflect and celebrate on what we have done
                3. Rest reminds us of the work Jesus did - we sometimes need to remember that we are workers and partners with Christ. When we rest, it gives us opportunity to remember that it does not all rely on us, that we can trust Jesus.
                4. Rest helps us to look forward - when we are caught up in the task and the moment then we don't always take the time to look ahead.

                In 2020, let's be people who make sure we prioritise sabbath in our routines, taking time each week to marvel at God and gain perspective on our life and ministry.

                Press On

                Posted: 
                Thursday, January 2, 2020

                Welcome to January 2020

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, January 1, 2020

                Welcome to 2020. You made it!

                If your 2019 was a year to celebrate, then we are excited for you and hope that by God’s grace, 2020 is even better. If your 2019 was more challenges than you wanted and thought you could cope with, then congratulations on surviving. In both circumstance we hope that God continues to be your rock, your hope, your guide and your strength.

                For Youth Min in January we want to focus on personal spirituality. While one common aspect is our roles within youth ministry, more important than that is our family bond as Christ followers. We are family/whanau. We are daughters and sons of our loving Father.

                This month we want to explore how we build and express our personal relationship with God. One expression of it is our service in youth ministry, but it needs to be more than that. We want to look at Sabbath, our Bible interactions, community, the rhythm of our lives and more.

                We hope you join us on this journey, not just this month but through the year. We pray that you find time through January to connect with the source, God, in a meaningful way.

                If there is anything that you need prayer for, please let us know, we would love to pray for you.

                God bless you.

                God Establishes Our Steps

                Posted: 
                Thursday, December 12, 2019

                Blog tags: 

                Sustainable Youth Ministry

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, December 11, 2019

                In the realm of strategy and planning within youth ministry, you can't go past Sustainable Youth Ministry, by Mark DeVries.

                It is not flashy or attempting to help you follow the current culture or trends. It is just a solid foundation to build a healthy and sustainable youth ministry.

                If you love young people and want to be more effective, then I recommend buying, reading and applying this book. The challenge is that youth pastors and leaders will read it, but it should also be read by senior pastors and ministers. Whoever oversees the youth leader, should read it. Because it requires more than an energetic and passionate youth leader to implement this strategy.

                I would love to discuss your thoughts on this book once you have read it. Feel free to contact me

                The Newest Zealander - Stephen Colbert

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, December 10, 2019

                These were a great series of funny videos from Stephen Colbert's visit to New Zealand, enjoy

                 

                Reflecting On 2019

                Posted: 
                Monday, December 9, 2019

                As we come to the end of the year, it is a natural time to reflect upon the year that was. In the craziness that is Christmas, New Years, and summer, I encourage you to proactively reflect on the year. What I mean by proactive, is to consciously choose the things that you will think about. Ask questions about the things that are important to you. Things like relationships, spiritual growth, emotional health etc.

                Youth ministry has been a part of your year, but it is not everything in your year and so choosing personal reflection is just as important.

                I want to encourage you to reflect on your personal spirituality. More specifically, where has God been working in you and on you?

                What has God been speaking to you about, at a personal level?

                As much as you and the people around you can get stuck in defining you by your ministry or "calling", God does not. Your service and leadership, ministry and calling are not how God primarily sees you.

                God sees you first as his child, who he loves. His commitment is to grow and shape you into the best version of you. The version he created you to be, before difficult situations and broken people had their influence on you. The version before fences or walls were put around you, boxing you in. The version that reflects his creativity in making you. The version that reflects Jesus.

                So what has this loving Father been speaking to you about? How has he been working in you in 2019? How has he been shaping you in 2019? Has it been uncomfortable or enjoyable? Have you seen his hand in your finances? What about your relationships?

                If you are not sure, if you can't define it, take some time this week and speak to God about it. Ask him to show you where he has been at work, where he has been sustaining, where he has been shaping, where he has been leading, where he has been prodding.

                My prayer is that you will sense his hand. You will see where he has been at work, and it will give you confidence as into 2020. You will be able to walk with confidence, knowing your God goes ahead to make a way, and he will walk with you through it, no matter what it holds.

                Funny Magicians

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, November 26, 2019

                These guys remind me of some of the tricks me and some mates used to do. Classic and good for a laugh.

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                Mark Cole: It's All About People

                Posted: 
                Monday, November 25, 2019

                This article first appeared on JohnMaxwell.com. To see the original article, please go here.

                Leadership is all about people; always has been, always will be.

                If you’re like me, you love to get things done. Maybe you tend to be task driven and action oriented. As I’ve traveled around the world with John Maxwell I’ve observed many leaders who share these characteristics. Which makes the most difficult thing about leadership the one thing we can’t remove from leadership:

                People.

                Here’s the truth: You can’t lead if you can’t deal with peopleBuilding relationships will always be the foundation of effective leadership.

                Earlier this month on the John Maxwell Leadership Podcast, John taught a lesson on Why The Best Are The Best. I encourage you to go back and listen to this episode if you haven’t already. John shared two prevailing thoughts about why the best are the best: 1) Leaders give their best to their people, and 2) Leaders get the best from their people.

                I have been thinking about this lesson ever since we recorded it, especially the second thought that John shared. It’s such an important question to be asking as a leader of anything: How do I get the best from my people?

                I want to share a few things I’m learning that I think will really help you get the best from your people.

                1. Slow down to connect.

                If you don’t slow down long enough to connect with your people, you’ll eventually find yourself alone. And if you’re alone, you’re not leading. Leaders understand that you might be able to go faster alone, but you can go further with others.

                Howard Schultz said, “Victory is much more meaningful when it comes not just from one person, but from the joint achievements of many. The euphoria is lasting when all participants lead with their hearts, winning not just for themselves but for one another.”

                2. Prove that you care.

                Just as John teaches, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. But this doesn’t happen overnight. As a leader, you have to take interest in your people, both professionally and personally. Professional interest shows that you want to help them; personal interest takes it a step deeper and shows your heart.

                Remember, the people that follow you desire a personal touch. Try sending a handwritten note to their home address. This is a great way to show that you value them as a human being and not just as a worker to get things done for you. It will take a little extra time, but it will be worth it in the end.

                3. Model what you want to see.

                Show me a disconnected leader that stands at a distance and gives orders, and I will show you a tyrant who will never get the best from his or her people. It is not enough to tell your people what to do; you must also show them. Because people do what people see. Are you willing to do what you’re asking your people to do?

                There is an old story about Mahatma Gandhi being approached by a woman and her son. The woman asked, “Please tell my little boy to stop eating sugar.”

                Gandhi replied, “Come back in three days.”

                So, the woman did as he said and returned three days later with her son. When they arrived, Gandhi said to the boy, “Young boy, stop eating sugar. It’s not good for you.”

                The woman was confused and asked, “Why did you ask us to leave and come back in three days?”

                Gandhi replied, “Because three days ago, I, too, was eating sugar. I could not ask him to stop eating sugar so long as I had not stopped eating sugar.”


                In order to get the best from your people, make them your top priority by slowing down to connect, by proving that you care, and by modeling what you want to see.

                John Maxwell said it best, “Leaders who tend only to business often end up losing the people and the business. But leaders who tend to the people usually build up the people, and the business.”

                It’s all about people!

                Inviting Volunteers To Partner In Youth Ministry

                Posted: 
                Friday, November 22, 2019

                One of the ongoing tasks of a leader is to find and "recruit" good leaders and volunteers.

                Here is one suggested process when you need leaders or volunteers:

                1. Identify the specific need that you are looking to fill.
                What do you need? Small group leaders, drivers, planning and organising, parent supporters, connectors, cooks?
                Be as specific about what you need as you can. I believe I heard it first from Doug Fields - A specific request gets a specific response. When you know what you need, you can then pray and look specifically to fill that need.

                2. Write a brief job description
                What do you want the person to do? What do you expect from that person and what are their boundaries?
                Have it clear in your head and heart. What is the role, the responsibilities and the necessary attributes. Even if the role is not ministering directly with young people, character and faith are important. By having a responsibility, some authority will automatically be attributed to them.
                I would recommend putting the attributes in a prioritized list as well. There should be some non-negotiable attributes. And others that are more wish-list. A volunteer with all of the essentials but half of the wish-list, is likely a better option than one who is the opposite.

                3. Have an onboarding process in place
                This does not have to be a complicated process with 6 months of training. But for NZ, the basics should include:

                • An understanding of their role, expectations and structure (who do they report to)
                • Health and Safety considerations, including appropriate behaviours around youth
                • Police checks
                • Training to get them set up for success

                4. Pray and write a "hit list"
                The process of finding volunteers and leaders should be bathed in prayer. So as you write your list of potential volunteers, pray and ask for wisdom, faith and inspiration. Then write your list of possible people that might fit the role. Remember to keep an open heart as someone might come to mind that you aren't sure about. Exercise wisdom but this might be God speaking.

                5. Approach people with a positive attitude
                There is a chance of rejection at this step. You need to let people make their own decisions without manipulation. But you should still approach people in an enthusiastic way. Tell them about the vision and opportunity for them to be involved. That attitude is easier for the first couple of people. It can wear thin if you have experienced a few rejections. Just trust God that he will bring the right people.
                It is important that people know process and expectations early in the process. Then they know what happens moving forward.

                6. Train and encourage your volunteers
                This is talked about in an earlier post about encouragement but it still holds true. It is easier to keep a good trained volunteer than to replace a volunteer, so make sure you communicate, encourage and keep them up-skilled.

                 

                What is your process? What would you add or take away from the above process? We would love to hear your thoughts.

                 

                Love One Another - John 15:12

                Posted: 
                Thursday, November 21, 2019

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                Knowing Your Team

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, November 20, 2019

                One helpful way to get to know your volunteers, and where they are best positioned to serve, is to have them do personality assessments, giftings assessments and strength assessments. Below are a number of online assessments that I have seen and most of them I have used at some point. They may not all suit your purposes, but try them and see which ones work for you.

                I will just note that while these can be helpful tools, they should never be used to box people into a certain role or position, or for us to disregard someone's fit for ministry. We are all individuals, created to reflect God in a unique way. So while these can help, they should never limit or be used as "weapons". 

                I quite like the acronym that Rick Warren uses to describe our uniqueness for ministry - SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experiences), although I add an S on the end for Season. There is a link below to an assessment I found for this as well.

                Use the tools, but consider people with an ear to the Holy Spirit as well.

                Clifton Strengths Finder

                Keirsey Temperament Sorter

                DISC Profile

                16 Personalities

                Enneagram

                Spiritual Gift Survey

                SHAPE

                What People Think We Do

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, November 19, 2019

                These were popular a few years ago, and I thought I would rehash some of the ones that I think are funny. Feel free to share ones you have seen on whatever social media platform you follow us on.

                Note: These have been uplifted without permission but links to the original website is included below each image

                Image from: YMJen

                 

                Image from: ChurchPop

                Remember

                Posted: 
                Monday, November 18, 2019

                As we focus on volunteers this month, can I encourage you to look back on your journey to this point. Whether you are in full-time, part-time or spare-time ministry, you probably started as a volunteer. We can get caught up in the busyness and challenges of life and youth ministry and forget why we got into ministry.

                So stop for a moment and remember how you got started, and why you got involved. Did you offer to help, were you asked to help, did you grow up into it, were you willing or reluctant? Was it something in you that stirred, or was it a leader that brought you in?

                There are many paths into youth ministry. None of them better than another.

                My full story is too long, but essentially as a high school student I was asked to be on the team by my youth leader. Over the subsequent years there were key moments. Prophetic words; meaningful conversations; meaningful God encounters; and an internal conviction. Those led me to Bible College for two years. I went from student leader, to youth leader, to youth pastor... then my journey took a few turns, but youth ministry stayed with me.

                I look back on the full journey of my 39 years of life and the 20+ years involved in youth ministry. There have been challenges and rewards. For me, partnering with God to serve young people continues to be more rewarding.

                Why do I serve in youth ministry? Because God got hold of my life, he broke my heart for young people, and I believe it is where he still wants me to be.

                Remembering our story, helps us lead our volunteers, because they have a story too. Knowing their story, helps us keep them motivated in the challenging seasons. Knowing their story helps us when there is conflict or tension. It gives us insight into their heart and intentions, even if their actions, behaviours or words might not be ideal.

                Today, remember your story. Thank God that he has given you this opportunity to serve him and the young people he loves.

                And find some time this week to better understand the journey of one of your volunteers. Help them remember why they got involved. And you can learn what motivates them.

                Dad Jokes - Will Ferrell vs Mark Wahlberg

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, November 12, 2019

                Two funny guys, trying not to laugh at jokes. Not entirely clean but "reasonably" safe.

                 

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                Fruit and Fruitfulness

                Posted: 
                Monday, November 11, 2019

                Galatians 6:9 - Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

                Keeping volunteers in youth ministry has difficult moments. It is especially hard in seasons where it feels more like hard work than harvest. And in reality, sometimes that harvest is years after the seeds are planted. And then the harvest may be reaped by another ministry or church.

                Understanding fruit, fruitfulness and fruit that lasts is important. If we don't, we might become weary and stop doing the good we should be doing.

                What fruit should we aim for and expect in youth ministry?

                I believe we should set our sights with faith. Believe for young people who have never heard the gospel, to hear it, understand it, embrace it and begin to live it out. Believe for young people who have grown up in church to find their own faith and begin to live it out independently of their parents. Believe for broken lives to find hope and start the journey towards healing and wholeness. Believe for families and communities to be impacted. Believe for the young people we lead to go on past our ministry to be adults who follow Christ and their faith.

                Fruitfulness is the intentional building of that ministry, even when you don't see the immediate results. A gardener does not plant the seeds and expect a plant with fruit on it tomorrow. It takes time.

                How do we grow fruit that lasts?

                To make fruit that lasts, I believe we need to: 

                • build resilient faith in youth. There will be hard times and they need to be prepared for it and not think that life will be easy just because they are a Christian.
                • point young people to Jesus. He should always be their primary connection point, not us as leaders. It might feel good to our ego to feel needed, but we are not setting up the young people to last if they rely on us more than Jesus.
                • introduce young people to the other generations. Youth ministry is a season in the life of young people. Eventually they will join "big" church, and the more connections they have, the higher the chance they will last.
                • help them find their place in life and in service in the church. Get young people serving and involved. When they know who they are and that they fit in God's plan they are more likely to stay.
                • engage parents and family. The influence of parents is greater than the youth leader's. They were there before you and they will be there after you. You have a role to play in young people's lives but it is powerful when youth leaders and parents partner to disciple young people.

                 

                So if the season feels like one where there is lots of work, lots of effort and not a lot of fruit, do not grow weary. Encourage each other that you are playing your part in this season.

                I have the privilege of seeing young people who came up through my youth ministry 10+ years ago now ministering and leading in their own right. I even have the privilege of putting their name forward for various speaking opportunities knowing they will do better than me. I was not the only influence in the journey but I know I was part of it.

                Do not grow weary, for there is a harvest if we do not give up.

                Team Games

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, November 5, 2019

                In this season of volunteers, I thought a video for some team building games might make you smile and might even give you some ideas.

                The Power Of Encouragement

                Posted: 
                Monday, November 4, 2019

                This month, I wanted to focus on volunteers, as they are a crucial part of a successful youth ministry. If you think you can do it on your own then you are limiting the impact that your youth ministry can make.

                Let's assume that you have volunteers. You might not call them volunteers. You might call them team, leaders, helpers, assistants, family etc. Whatever you call them, they volunteer their time in the youth ministry. And we need to look after them if we want them around in the long run.

                The Bible says to encourage one another and so below are some ideas based on the 5 Love Languages as a framework. If you have never read the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, I recommend it. It will help you in all your relationships.

                Sometimes we think that encouragement isn't needed if people were here for the right reason. There is a degree of truth. We shouldn't have to convince people every week to serve. But ministry is draining, and knowing that someone understands your efforts and hard work can make it feel like it was noticed and valuable.

                Some people respond to gifts

                There are a percentage of people whose primary love language is gifts. They feel most appreciated when people make or buy them something. It doesn't have to be expensive, if it has depth and meaning to them.

                At a previous church we had a worship director who was stepping aside from the role. They were staying in the church and on the team, just weren't leading, but they had served in this role for 7 or 8 years. A bunch of flowers and a dinner out seemed cliche and not enough. I remembered a conversation with her about a side project she was working on, staging homes for sale. She had mentioned a conference or expo related to that area. So we did some research. The specific event she mentioned was not around, but we found something related and gifted her access to it. She was greatly appreciative because it spoke to an interest that was unique to her in our church.

                So when you find someone who's love language is gifts, find ways to find out their interests and hobbies. Be interested in them beyond their role in youth, and get them meaningful gifts as a way to thank and encourage them that you care.

                Some people respond to words of affirmation

                These people can feel easier because words can be easy and don't cost money. They should cost us some thought though.

                Words are most powerful when they are meaningful. Meaning comes when the encouragement is specific. I remember people thanking me for my role in the youth ministry, knowing that they had no idea how much I had done. If they had said, thank you for the late nights where you planned, prayed and ministered to young people. Or thank you for the miles you have driven to help young people come to youth. Those words would have had more meaning, because they were specific.

                Words of affirmation don't have to be spoken face to face. You can find creative ways like a card, or a letter that you actually post in the mail, or an email. They could even be a quick video. Use your imagination.

                Some people respond to physical touch

                In today's society we have to be cautious. What may be innocent can be misunderstood or misinterpreted. So use wisdom but look for ways where you can encourage your team through physical touch. Be aware and make sure you know your people, because there are some who may feel very uncomfortable with physical touch due to their past.

                Some possible ideas:

                • The side hug, where you come up beside and put an arm on the shoulder and maybe give a brief squeeze.
                • The two-handed hand-shake, where you shake their hand and the left hand surrounds the back of the hand
                • A hand on their shoulder
                • A side bump and smile
                • Platonic hug - use with caution

                As someone who is less inclined towards physical touch, it not something I am great at, but we can all learn.

                Some people respond to quality time

                You making time for them, prioritising them, can speak volumes. Again, set some boundaries, but make this a part of your interactions with your team. Whether it is a hang out over coffee, or working on a project together, or a meal, or an activity together. Again, there are many options for this. The key is that if is not your language, not natural to you, put it on your task or priority list and then get it done.

                Some people respond to acts of service

                Acts of service is doing things for them. An act of service could be a minor as getting them a cup of coffee or a drink of water without them asking, to working on their house with/for them. You could wash their car, you could mow their lawns, you could take a task off them that you know they don't like doing.

                There are many ways you can do this, you just need to get to know your people.

                 

                If you want volunteers and team members who last, then we need to be people who encourage others. Figure out a way this week that you can encourage 1-2 of the leaders around you.

                Continue Gathering - Romans 10:24-25

                Posted: 
                Thursday, October 17, 2019

                Small Groups From Start to Finish

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, October 16, 2019

                According to Doug Fields, the number one question people ask him is "How do I start an effective small group program?" This resource is his answer. Everything Doug and his ministry partner Matt McGill know about launching small groups has been put into this production pack resource.

                The Small Groups From Start To Finish production pack walks you through 10 clear steps on how to launch a healthy small group program within your youth ministry. Included in all of this information is a CD-ROM with all resources used in the small group ministry at Saddleback Church. We've crammed everything we can in there to help make your small group launch a success.

                The resource is broken down into three parts:
                1. Description of the 10 steps.
                2. Dozens of handouts, job descriptions, training sheets, and letters (a time-saving dream!)
                3. The CD-ROM containing everything from part 2 in Word and PDF formats so you can edit, print and distribute whatever you need.

                You can get access to this resource through:

                Funny Book Titles and Authors

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, October 15, 2019

                Some amusing fake book titles and author combos to lighten your day as we move through the week. There were a few of these that I had to read multiple times before it clicked, but enjoy and hope it puts a smile on your face.

                "How To Write Big Books" by Warren Peace

                "The Lion Attacked" by Claude Yarmoff

                "The Art Of Archery" by Beau N. Arrow

                "Songs For Children" by Barbara Blacksheep

                "Irish Heart Surgery" by Angie O'Plasty

                "Desert Crossing" by I. Rhoda Camel

                "School Truancy" by Marcus Absent

                "I Was A Cloakroom Attendant" by Mahatma Coate

                "I Lost My Balance" by Eileen Dover and Phil Down

                "Positve Reinforcement" by Wade Ago

                "Shhh!" by Danielle Soloud

                "The Philippine Post Office" By Imelda Letter

                "Stop Arguing" by Xavier Breath

                 

                What ones do you know that might be worth adding to the list.

                Be A Caring Adult

                Posted: 
                Monday, October 14, 2019

                It has been said that it takes a tribe to raise a child. Part of the tribe is caring adults who step into the world of young people. They can give perspective, help them learn and give them hope. As we spend October looking at small groups, the role of a small group leader is crucial in the lives of young people.

                The clip below from a TV series in the 90s reminds us that we have a part to play. You don't have to be young to be relevant, you just have to care enough. Care enough to push past any awkwardness in the early stages of connection. Young people are worth pushing past our reservations. There have been times when I have felt awkward and irrelevant, and I have chosen not to connect. But I was challenged by God that my hesitation is robbing those young people of another caring adult.

                Care enough to connect. Make the most of the opportunities to encourage and guide. Lead those young people into greater relationship with our loving God.

                The Complete Guide To Small Groups

                Posted: 
                Monday, October 7, 2019

                This month, we are focusing on small groups and I found this website that has multiple links that will be helpful for any small group leader. The website is about 2 years old so I can't vouch for all the links but am sure there is enough there to get a good start.

                It includes:

                • Starting a Small Group
                • Ice Breakers
                • Small Group Discussions
                • Small Group Studies
                • Student-led Small Groups
                • Encouragement for Small Group Leaders
                • Other Useful Resources

                The Complete Guide To Small Groups

                Photoshop Experts Show Their Skills

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, October 1, 2019

                Check out the mad skills and amusing perspective of these photoshop ninjas.

                Photos for this post were found on Quick Turtle's Facebook page, posted on 16th Sep 2019. We post this with our full respect for skill and humour.

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                Rest—Investing Time to Become a Better Leader

                Posted: 
                Monday, September 30, 2019

                This article was originally published on JohnMaxwell.com on September 3, 2019. For the article on the original site and other resources, please click here.

                 

                Recently, one of our team members at the John Maxwell Company shared an interesting struggle in his life: he’s forgotten how to rest. Some of the team was gathered for lunch and he volunteered his thoughts as everyone was talking.

                “I just feel like, when I’m resting, that there’s something else I should be doing,” he said. “I feel like my time would be more productive if I were reading, or making something, or working towards a specific goal.”

                Now, this is a highly productive team member who loves his work and enjoys making a difference through what he does. He’s a disciplined person with clear boundary lines for work, family, and community.

                It was surprising for him to share this struggle, and especially ironic considering we’ve just celebrated Labor Day, a holiday designed to honor the working people of America by giving them a day to rest. But what he shared isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s something many leaders struggle with.

                Do you ever feel that way?

                Do you ever struggle with investing your time to increase your energy?

                Because that’s what resting is: an investment. It’s easy for leaders to think that time spent actively doing something with an immediately measurable outcome is an investment; it’s difficult for them to think of time spent resting in the same way.

                In a fast-forward culture, rest seems like a luxury we can’t afford.

                I keep a busy schedule, but I understand that rest is an essential investment for my leadership. I can’t push myself beyond my limits every day; I must have time to rest. Granted, I may not rest too long, but that doesn’t change the fact that I need to pause every now and then!

                Here’s why rest is such an important investment for leaders:

                1. It allows you to recover—your body needs recovery time. If you’ve ever been to a gym, even as a failed New Year’s Resolution, you’ve learned that every person’s body needs time to recover because that’s where the growth happens. When you work out, you break down your muscles; when you rest, those muscles recover and add strength that helps you push even farther next time. The same is true with our leadership muscles. If we want to grow, we must rest and recover.
                2. It allows you to reflect—you need time to look back in order to learn. Moving from challenge to challenge, or from opportunity to opportunity, might sound and seem exciting, but reflection is how we learn the lessons that help us get better. Since leaders separate themselves from the pack by seeing more and before others do, it’s a smart idea to set aside time to reflect because looking back helps us gain clarity for looking ahead.
                3. It allows you to rekindle—this is idea comes from Mark Cole, CEO of all my companies. Mark teaches our team that within the business cycle is a time for rekindling your passion for what you do. Resting allows you to rediscover the enthusiasm and energy you have for the work you do and the purpose you fulfill. If recovery is for the body and reflection is for the mind, then rekindling is for the heart. A leader needs all three to be effective.

                Believe it or not, resting is a discipline like anything else. The team member I mentioned earlier is learning how to discipline himself in this way, and he’s learning (like I did) that it takes time and intentionality to find the right rhythm that works for you and your leadership. But make no mistake—it’s an essential part of your work as a leader. Taking time to invest in our physical, mental, and emotional health as leaders is just good business.

                A burned-out leader reproduces burned-out people because we reproduce what we are, not what we want. Learning to rest is one of the best investments a leader can make.

                The Importance of Perseverance

                Posted: 
                Friday, September 27, 2019

                In youth ministry, perseverance is an important attribute to develop and maintain. The definition of perseverance is persistence in doing something, despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

                In ministering to any group, especially teenagers, it requires perseverance. That ability to push through hard moments, or to continue to serve, love and lead when you feel like there is no positive change.

                A farmer plants the seed and then has to wait for the before they see any sign of growth. We are planting seeds into the hearts of young people and trusting God that it has landed in good soil and will grow. Then the plant is not immediately fruitful until there is a degree of maturity. We don't have to wait for youth to be adults, but the seeds do need to embed in their heart for it to affect their life and choices.

                Perseverance has been responsible for some of the greatest achievements. Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay persevered. They were the first humans to reach the top of Mt Everest. People like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr and Mahatma Gandhi had a cause. They persevered through many difficulties.

                Our cause may not represent the scale of those endeavours, but they are still important. The lives of those young people are important to God and should be important to us.

                We understand that youth ministry needs perseverance and what perseverance is, but how to we develop and maintain it?

                 

                1. Understand the long game and big picture

                We can get caught up in the week to week activities and daily tasks and lose perspective. Our focus should be on creating lifetime followers of Jesus. So we need to put the momentary difficulties into perspective. On a weekly basis we pour all that God has given to us into the teenagers we have in front of and around us. We do this because we know that we can play a part in this season of their life. Like the farmer, we prepare the soil, sow the seed and water it, but growth is out of our hands.

                Inevitably there will be a moment when you wonder if your efforts this week will be worthwhile. Unfortunately we can't time travel and see how things turn out. We can only do what we have been given to do, to the best of our ability. We love young people, we pray for young people, we show and teach them about our God.

                 

                2. Trust God with the results

                I have said in an earlier blog that the most committed person to our young people is God. We have a part to play but in the end we are not in control of the lives of our young people.

                1 Corinthians 3:6 - I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

                I remember a testimony a while back. I can't remember their name so let's call him Tom. God had challenged Tom to be more responsive to His voice and to share his faith more often. One day he was at work and walked past the break room where a colleague was making a coffee. Tom felt God speak to him to share his faith, so he went into the break room and engaged with his work mate. He shared the gospel. The result was that the work mate outright rejected the gospel and walked off, somewhat offended. Tom walked to his desk and sat down quite dejected. He knew he had heard God, he had taken a step of obedience and it was a failure. A little while later a man in overalls walked up to his desk. Unknown to Tom, this man had been in the break room repairing the fridge. He had heard everything that Tom had shared and it had affected him. That repair man became a follower of Jesus that day because Tom was obedient.

                We don't know the outcome of our service and obedience. All we can do is be obedient in the moment and trust God with the results.

                 

                3. Remember your calling

                I can't count the number of times when I have felt like giving up on youth ministry. There are too many. One of the things that has kept me going is that I know I am called. I know that there are some who feel called to youth ministry for a short season. Some feel called to youth ministry for a longer season. And some of us feel called for life. Ultimately, unless you feel that your time in a ministry is actually over, lean on your calling to sustain you.

                Our relationship with God should be our main resource, and it should be what we press into first. But in some seasons we don't "feel" God, and so we lean on the revelation we have received previously. Hopefully one of those revelations was your calling. When things are difficult, the words that God has spoken should be used to help us persevere.

                 

                4. Don't carry the pain alone

                A problem shared is a problem halved. Find safe people who you can talk openly with. Ministry has its struggles and we need to know that there are people out there that can listen and help. If you can find someone face to face then do that. If it is a personal connection that is primarily digital then do that. If it is a Facebook page that lets you connect and express yourself then do that. (Please make sure that the group is not public, so your posts don't appear in people's threads).

                A good mentor or supervisor will allow you to vent, and then help you get some perspective.

                 

                5. Celebrate the wins

                A joy shared is a joy doubled. We can get caught up in the negative or the areas to improve and miss the wins and the good we are doing. If you only see the challenges or improvements, then it will wear you down. There is almost always something you could have done better. Celebrate the regulars being regular. Celebrate the times the less regulars attend. Celebrate every salvation & every conversation. Celebrate every event where no-one ended up at A&E. Whatever you can find, celebrate it.

                 

                Your youth need adults who will persevere. Who won't throw in the towel when it gets tough. Who persist past the awkward stages of connection. Who show up week after week, month after month. Their parents need adults who will help their young people to hear about hope, God and how to make wise choices.

                I pray God's richest blessing on you as you persevere. May you know His grace that sustains, His love that lifts and His peace that passes all understanding.

                Peace To You

                Posted: 
                Thursday, September 26, 2019

                Blog tags: 

                Hillsong Leadership Network

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, September 25, 2019

                I have a great deal of respect for Brian & Bobbie Houston and the team they have built at Hillsong. The Hillsong Leadership Network is another avenue that they have created to serve the local church.

                You need to sign up for a free account to get access to everything that is available, but in my opinion it is worth it.

                The website is primarily targeted at pastors but the available resources are useful for youth leaders. Webinars on leadership, preaching, volunteers, youth etc are all helpful as we lead young people.

                We hope these resources can help you continue to grow and develop.

                The Floor Is Lava

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, September 24, 2019

                I find this hilarious, enjoy.

                Righteousness In Its Right Place

                Posted: 
                Monday, September 23, 2019

                Ephesians 6:14b - the breastplate of righteousness in place

                The breastplate is a protective plate that covers the vital organs, including the heart. We need to protect our heart, for as Proverbs says it is the well spring of life. Our heart is the core of who we are, our identity, our passion, our life.

                But why righteousness?

                Righteousness is about being free from guilt or sin. When we have been made righteous we have the ability to connect with God directly.

                And this righteousness is not ours. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."  We are not righteous because of anything we have achieved or attained, it is the righteousness that Jesus has given to us.

                So the righteousness of Jesus is sufficient to protect us, but how?

                I had a recent discussion with someone about someone who was adopted and their desire to find their birth parents. It is almost an inbuilt need to know where we came from, whose we are. It informs our identity.

                If our heart represents our identity.
                     And our identity is impacted by whose we are, our key relationships
                          Then Jesus' righteousness gives us access to a key relationship with our Heavenly Father
                               So then His righteousness protects our identity, in that it protects our connection to God

                We need to ensure that we put on the righteousness of Jesus, so that we can ensure our heart is protected and connected with a loving God.

                Finally it needs to be in its proper place. It protects us from the front, it is always in front of us. It goes ahead of us but is intimately connected to us. We can see it and feel it and should never take it for granted. It should be a constant reminder of our need for a saviour.

                We are all in the same boat, we all need a saviour.

                 

                Walk By The Spirit - Galatians 5:25

                Posted: 
                Thursday, September 19, 2019

                Just A Phase - A Resource for Parents and Leaders

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, September 18, 2019

                Just A Phase is a resource for parents and leaders to help understand the different phases of children and youth's lives, to help us all be more present for them.

                The Just a Phase Project is a collaborative, ongoing, effort assembling classic and innovative research, with practical application. It synthesizes the work of national leaders and authors around America to summarize and simplify hundreds of hours of research, interviews with licensed professional counselors, surveys of more than 250 state teachers of the year, countless conversations with age group ministry staff, so the average parent and leader can understand kids better.

                This was done so adults don’t miss what’s happening during the critical phases of growing up and so leaders and parents can connect God’s love and forgiveness to the heart of the next generation.

                There are free and paid resources available on their website so have a scout around.

                You can find out more about the Just A Phase resources by listening to a couple of podcasts:

                They also have a downloadable Roadmap for some key areas that you get if you sign up to their newsletter. I can't find where that sign up form is, its possible its a popup that I dismissed. But if you can't find it, then one that I have on file is here - download

                We hope this helps you lead better and resource the parents of your youth.

                Flight of the Conchords

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, September 17, 2019

                Flight of the Conchords are one of my favourite comedy acts. Here are a couple of their videos to lighten your day.

                Stand Wrapped In Truth

                Posted: 
                Monday, September 16, 2019

                Ephesian 6:14a - Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist...

                It is interesting that Paul likens truth to a buckled belt. A buckled belt is one of the most secure devices when it comes to clothing. I doubt zippers were invented in Paul's time but we all know zippers can't be trusted, its why most preachers do a quick check of their fly before preaching. A knotted sash or rope are also not entirely reliable, we have all had shoe laces come untied.

                The belt also pulls everything together and holds them in the place we have set them, securely keeping things in their place.

                And why do we need truth wrapped around us, securing everything? Because we are battling against the Father of Lies. He lies to us about our position and security, he lies to us about the character of God, he lies to us about our future, our past and our present, he even lies about who he is, in an attempt to limit our effectiveness.

                Some truth statements and supporting scriptures to wrap around yourself are below, taken from another list online:

                • I am complete in Him Who is the head over all rule and authority—of every angelic and earthly power (Colossians 2:10).
                • I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).
                • I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).
                • I am far from oppression, and will not live in fear (Isaiah 54:14).
                • I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).
                • I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).
                • I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).
                • I have the peace of God that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
                • The Spirit of God, who is greater than the enemy in the world, lives in me (1 John 4:4).
                • I have received abundant grace and the gift of righteousness and reign in life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
                • I have received the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my heart enlightened, so that I know the hope of having life in Christ (Ephesians 1:17-18).
                • I have received the power of the Holy Spirit and He can do miraculous things through me.I have authority and power over the enemy in this world (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).
                • I am renewed in the knowledge of God and no longer want to live in my old ways or nature before I accepted Christ (Colossians 3:9-10).
                • I am merciful, I do not judge others, and I forgive quickly. As I do this by God’s grace, He blesses my life (Luke 6:36-38).
                • God supplies all of my needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).
                • In all circumstances I live by faith in God and extinguish all the flaming darts (attacks) of the enemy (Ephesians 6:16).
                • I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ Jesus who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).
                • I am chosen by God who called me out of the darkness of sin and into the light and life of Christ so I can proclaim the excellence and greatness of who He is (1 Peter 2:9).
                • I am born again—spiritually transformed, renewed and set apart for God’s purpose—through the living and everlasting word of God (1 Peter 1:23).
                • I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ to do good works that He has prepared for me to do (Ephesians 2:10).
                • I am a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
                • In Christ, I am dead to sin—my relationship to it is broken—and alive to God—living in unbroken fellowship with Him (Romans 6:11).
                • The light of God’s truth has shone in my heart and given me knowledge of salvation through Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
                • As I hear God’s Word, I do what it says and I am blessed in my actions (James 1:22, 25).
                • I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me (Romans 8:37).
                • I overcome the enemy of my soul by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).
                • I have everything I need to live a godly life and am equipped to live in His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).
                • I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).
                • I am the righteousness of God—I have right standing with Him—in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).
                • My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit; I belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:19).
                • I am the head and not the tail, and I only go up and not down in life as I trust and obey God (Deuteronomy 28:13).
                • I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
                • I am chosen by God, forgiven and justified through Christ. I have a compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness and patience (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12).
                • I am redeemed—forgiven of all my sins and made clean—through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7).
                • I have been rescued from the domain and the power of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
                • I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).
                • My life is rooted in my faith in Christ and I overflow with thanksgiving for all He has done for me (Colossians 2:7).
                • I am called to live a holy life by the grace of God and to declare His praise in the world (Psalm 66:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).
                • I am healed and whole in Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).
                • I am saved by God’s grace, raised up with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:12).
                • I am greatly loved by God (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
                • I am strengthened with all power according to His glorious might (Colossians 1:11).
                • I humbly submit myself to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).
                • I press on each day to fulfill God’s plan for my life because I live to please Him (Philippians 3:14).
                • I am not ruled by fear because the Holy Spirit lives in me and gives me His power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7).
                • Christ lives in me, and I live by faith in Him and His love for me (Galatians 2:20).

                If we can securely wrap these truths around us, then we maintain our ability to stand firm. If we let fear, doubt and lies to erode these truths then things start to get a bit loose and we become vulnerable.

                God, I pray that you would help us to wrap ourselves in your truth, that we are loved and accepted, that through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can be overcomers and effective in everything that you have called us to. Help us to then wrap others in these same truths.

                Developing an EPIC Generation - Connected

                Posted: 
                Friday, September 13, 2019

                This is the last part of our EPIC Generation series. We have covered  ExperientialParticipatory and Image-Rich, and today we will close off with Connected.

                You can not deny that this is a connected generation. For as long as I have been in youth ministry, teenagers have been social creatures, some of them struggle with this area but it is part of this stage. They often define themselves by the people they choose to hang out with (and the ones they choose not to hang with) but with the introduction of social media, smart phones etc, this has taken on a different level.

                We won't get into the challenges of social media and smart phones, and the research that is indicating a connected but isolated generation, that is for another post. What we can acknowledge is that teenagers are used to learning and processing in a connected and relational way. So we need to actively incorporate that aspect into our ministries, not just in teaching times but in other aspects of our environment and programming. 

                What could it look like? Just like the article about participation, in your preaching/teaching times you could make opportunities to pause to have the youth connect, maybe to discuss something or do something. We all know that young people are busy and can be overly scheduled, so creating space in your programming where they can just hang out with friends will be something of value to your young people.

                I would also encouage you to build intergenerational connection into your ministry philosophy and programming. The research indicates that young people who have meaningful connections with other generations in their church are more likely to maintain their faith after they graduate high school. The ideas on this are endless but a few that immediate ones are:

                • Have youth serving on church teams - creative, tech, hosting, kids ministry etc
                • Have a range of generations on your volunteer team
                • Host youth vs adult events for fun
                • Connect a youth with an adult who might be able to assist with a life challenge, for example if a young person is thinking about a particular career path then connect them with someone in a similar role to help them explore this.
                • Have intentional events. We used to have a "Fridge Clean-out" night where adults and families in the church would open their homes and youth would go and have dinner with them. 

                 

                I would encourage you to have times of unstructured connection and other times of structured connection in your weekly programs. Structured connection could include things like:

                • a discussion around an issue and possible solutions
                • a Bible study around a theme or scripture where everyone gets to share and respectfully ask questions
                • It has more risk, but a well facilitated debate can increase connection. People can share their opinion (sometimes passionately) and as long as the discussion stays on the topic and doesn't involve personal attacks then the young people can be heard and hear others. The young people need to understand that we can disagree on some things and still remain friends.

                If well managed these things allow youth to express themselves, be heard, hear from others and not be judged (hopefully). That builds connection and develops our young people. How this looks will depend on your context but it is something we should be thinking about.

                Have a look at your program and teaching times and ask yourself, how can we help build real and meaningful connection?

                 

                Previous posts in this series:

                Blog tags: 

                Speak with Love - 1 Corinthians 13:1

                Posted: 
                Thursday, September 12, 2019

                Claire Madden - Gen Z Expert

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, September 11, 2019

                Claire Madden is a leading voice internationally on Generation Z. As an author, social researcher, keynote speaker and media commentator, Claire is in high demand as an expert in interpreting social trends, demographics and implications of generational change. Claire is the author of Hello Gen Z: Engaging the Generation of Post-Millennials.

                Claire is highly regarded for her dynamic and engaging presentations where she translates robust, research-based content into strategic applications for educators, managers and business leaders. Claire is commissioned by some of the nation’s largest companies and leading brands to interpret the changing landscape and communicate the implications for business and society.

                I first encountered Claire when she was part of one of Hillsong's online Leadership Network events. Her research and insights into Gen Z are really helpful, especially for any of us who are more than 10 years removed from our teen years. We need to remember that the current generation of teenagers are no longer Millenials, they are Gen Z and we need to be equiped to understand how they are different and how their world has shaped them.

                I encourage you to check out her website and resources - www.clairemadden.com.

                We are looking at opportunities in the next 12-18 months to bring Claire over to NZ for training events for youth leaders. If you are interested in this opportunity, please let us know and we will let you know when this moves ahead.

                Santa Went Down To Georgia

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, September 10, 2019

                An amusing video for your viewing pleasure. We are a little way off Christmas but as we near the end of the year maybe this will inspire you for something.

                 

                Focus On The Right Fight

                Posted: 
                Monday, September 9, 2019

                Ephesians 6:12 - For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

                Two weeks back, I wrote about standing strong in the power of the Lord. Today, as we stand, we need to focus our fight in the right direction, and choose strategies that align with God's principles.

                There is no doubt that the struggle is real. Whether it is at a personal level, a ministry/church level or a society level, there is a struggle for us to progress God's kingdom. And sometimes we can be overwhelmed by what we perceive. I believe there are three main responses that I see.

                1. Duck, dive and evade
                2. Make a lot of noise
                3. Proactive & loving

                 

                Duck, dive and evade

                This is the option to avoid conflict, to ignore the issues. It keeps ourselves "safe" but does little to remedy or improve the situation. If we are honest, most of us have areas where we choose to evade issues, I know I do. It is a short-term fix but if we want long-term health then eventually we need to process these issues in a different way.

                Some intercessors use their role in prayer as an technique to evade getting actively involved. Don't get me wrong, we need people who pray and who seek God, but I don't believe we are called in every situation to only pray.

                 

                Making a lot of noise

                This option does not do any work to fix or resolve issues, but everyone knows what we think about it. We might complain about it, tweet or post about it, we may even preach about it, but at no point do we take action towards facing it or resolving it.

                We justify that it is better than doing nothing and that we can't fix everything ourselves, but I would suggest that neither evading nor only making a lot of noise about it is placing our focus on the right fight. If we agree that our fight is not against flesh and blood, then we can't really evade the struggles because the spiritual is still there and it is still at work. And making a lot of noise is usually directed at the people or structures that we believe are at fault and so not working on addressing the underlying issues.

                 

                Proactive and loving

                I believe this is the Biblical model that Jesus show us. Jesus spent time in prayer getting aligned with God the Father, getting filled with the Holy Spirit and I am sure facing spiritual forces, his temptation is a clear example of that. He also spoke up about systemic issues, some of his comments to the Pharisees, Sadducees etc were scathing. And then in the midst of prayer and speaking out, he went out and made a difference to individuals. During his earthly ministry he helped the needy, he healed the sick, he raised the dead etc.

                Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, it is primarily spiritual and so I would suggest that we start on our knees, getting into God's presence, getting his insight and his empowerment, then go out and address systemic issues and ministering to people.

                 

                Earlier I mentioned three categories of struggle. I briefly want to comment on each of these.

                Personal - if you are going through a personal struggle, then I want to encourage you that God's grace is sufficient. His grace will help you face whatever you are facing. His grace may be expressed in the people he puts around you, his grace and power may resolve the issue, his grace will uphold you and sustain you if you let it.
                God I pray for those who are in the midst of a personal struggle, whether it is habitual sin, doubts, fears, sickness, relationship issues, finances, spiritual attack, work place or anything else, I pray that they would know and feel your presence, that you would be close to them. Give them wisdom, understanding, faith and courage, that they would see the issue for what it truly is, see the solution that you have for it and then be able to step into the solution.

                Ministry - sometimes our struggle is in the context of our ministry involvement. Maybe there is an opportunity that we can see but can't take, maybe there are tensions with the people, maybe there is a lack of resources, maybe there is that one student that you can't seem to get through to or that one adult that feels like they are opposing us, or any number of other issues.
                Remember that the struggle is not against flesh and blood, so for any challenge where there is a person directly involved, our struggle should not be against them. With people we need to be agents of grace and love, they may disagree with us but they are created in God's image and they are the Church. We can get caught up in our programs and philosophies on building a ministry, forgetting that none of that is the Church that God has committed to build. The people are the church. I wonder if we might not be called to account at the end of our lives for the times when we disregarded people for the sake of a building, program, system or philosophy. Christ died for the people, not the trappings of church.
                Also, sometimes we see the person as the issue, when it is us that has something that needs to be dealt with.
                God I pray for those who are facing struggles in their ministry. Let those who are facing struggles related to people remember that people are the purpose, that we should be agents of your grace and love. Let those who may be facing other struggles receive your wisdom and resource, let them see a pathway forward that would fulfill your purposes in the lives of young people in their community. Let peace reign in their heart.

                Society - ultimately society is a collection of individuals that exist within a framework of some kind. Just as with ministry, we should love the people but face the systems that don't honour God. We may not be able to fix everything that we see as "wrong", but we can love the one in front of us, and we can speak up when an opportunity arises to promote God's love, his Kingdom and his systems.
                God, I pray for all of us as we partner with you in the progression of your Kingdom in our lives and world. Help us to see with your eyes, speak with your words, and reach out with your hands. We can make a difference.

                Developing an EPIC Generation - Image-Rich

                Posted: 
                Friday, September 6, 2019

                Continuing with our EPIC series, this week we are going to look at Image-Rich. Our previous posts have covered Experiential and Participatory, and we encourage you to check them out when you get a chance.

                Humans are naturally visual creatures, but never before has a generation been bombarded with so many images. Between TV, internet, mobile phones, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc, young people are seeing and processing a huge number of images, and not just images, but images with messages. The research shows that we retain about 20% of what we received as images/media, and so in a world where young people are used to seeing pictures and videos, we need to make use of meaningful images.

                We have probably all heard the phrase that a picture is worth a thousand words, so we know the power of pictures to communicate. Aristotle is quoted as saying "the soul never thinks without a picture", because pictures are powerful in our thinking and processing. Organisations like Growing Leaders use images in their training materials, Habitudes is used to teach young people leadership principles and skills. I have used them with student leaders and I still remember a number of the principles that are taught.

                And if you need a Biblical example, then there is none better than Jesus. He didn't have powerpoint or keynote when he taught, but where was he when he spoke to Peter about being a fisher of men? By a lake. When Jesus taught the parable of the sower, he painted a word picture but was also likely within a stone's throw of a field if not able to see the field from where he was. When he talked about living water he was by a well (John 4) or in the midst of a feast (Sukkot) that included collecting water from the Pool of Siloam (John 7). When he taught them about faith and spoke about speaking to a mountain, he had just come down from the mountain and it was still visible.

                Our teaching environments don't usually give real life visuals, but we can make use of images when we teach. When you have a principle, attach it to a meaningful image.

                An example might help, so I will "borrow" one from Habitudes. The leadership principle of the iceburg. 10% of an iceburg is visible above the water line and 90% is hidden. In leadership, 10% of what we do is the visible parts of leadership, and 90% of leadership is unseen. It is the unseen character development and integrity that will sustain us and our leadership. It is the preparation and communication, it is the strategy and systems, it is the study and research that actually give us the platform to lead and influence other. And without the 90% of unseen, the 10% would not be held up.

                We encourage you to begin to think about how you can include images into the development, training and teaching of your youth. They are powerful to help them retain the principles and lessons that we impart.

                Have you used images in your communication? Have they worked? What have you used and how? Post them to social media and tag them with #youthminnz

                 

                Other posts in this series:

                Kingdom of Power - 1 Corinthians 4:20

                Posted: 
                Thursday, September 5, 2019

                Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, September 4, 2019

                C P Y U logo

                The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding is a nonprofit organization committed to building strong families by serving to bridge the cultural-generational gap between parents and teenagers. 

                At a time when an already confusing youth culture is changing quickly, CPYU helps parents, youth workers, educators, and others understand teenagers and their culture so that they will be better equipped to help children and teens navigate the challenging world of adolescence.

                Founded in 1989 by Walt Mueller, CPYU has developed an international reputation as a voice providing cutting-edge information, resources and analysis on today’s youth culture.

                The mission of CPYU is to work with churches, schools, and community organizations to build stronger relationships between young people and those charged with helping them grow into healthy adulthood.

                This mission is accomplished by:

                • Helping parents understand and respond to the complex world of their children and teens from a distinctively Christian point of view.
                • Equipping teenagers to deal with the challenges of adolescence.
                • Raising the youth culture awareness of youth workers, parents and educators, thereby helping them increase their effectiveness with parents, children and teens.

                 

                I have been following and using the resources from CPYU for a number of years, I have 2 of their books about youth culture. It is American but cultural trends for teens are similar enough for it to be useful.

                Check out their website and resources and let me know what you think.

                Funny Astronaut Ad

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, September 4, 2019

                I know this shows that I am still immature, but I find this hilarious

                Born for Greatness

                Posted: 
                Monday, September 2, 2019

                I am sure this band (Papa Roach) and style of music is not everyone's preference, but the message is a good one. The video showcases some amazing individuals who don't allow their physical limitations to determine what they can and can't do.

                Whatever challenges you are facing, by God's grace you can overcome. God told Paul that his grace was sufficient for Paul's struggle and that is true for us today too. God's grace does not just lift us out of sin to where we are free, it lifts us to be overcomers and effective ministers. Its not by grace to a certain point and then our efforts from there, it is His grace in everything.

                In God's kingdom, you are not nameless, you are not faceless, you were born for greatness.

                 

                Developing an EPIC Generation - Participatory

                Posted: 
                Friday, August 30, 2019

                Continuing on from last week's post about this EPIC generation, this week we are looking at Participatory. This generation expects to participate. They have grown up participating in meaningful ways in a range of decisions and aspects of their lives.

                They upload their thoughts and want to be heard, they participate in family decisions around food, holidays etc. To keep them engaged, we need to find ways to help them participate in meaningful ways. Not only does participating engage them more, it helps them learn and grow.

                Jesus' leadership style was one that involved participation. Throughout his ministry he made people participate. His disciples didn't just sit and listen to his teaching, they were expected to engage and participate. Matthew 10 tells of Jesus sending out the disciples in groups of 2. What can we learn from Jesus's example in Matthew 10?

                He had modelled what he was asking them to do.
                The disciples had been with Jesus for a little while, so they would have heard his teaching and seen his ministry in action with healing and miracles. He was not asking them to participate in something they had never seen or something he was not doing himself.
                When we look to have young people participate, context helps them. For example, if you ask one of your young people to lead a 5 minute breakout discussion with 3-4 people during your sermon, then make sure they have seen it done successfully, to help set them up for success.

                He gave them the authority that would enable them to do what he asked
                Jesus did not give them a task or responsibility without also imparting to them the authority they would need to do it. If we are only offering a token gesture of participation and not true participation, the young people will feel it. So we need to be mindful to allow their participation to be meaningful.
                In our example of running a small discussion, if the young person we have asked to lead their group is not acknowledged in some way, then they may not have the respect of those around them. How you do that will depend on the size of your group. In a smaller group you can name those who will be leading the groups. In a larger context you could have it so that those leaders have a orange piece of paper with questions on it, get into a group with someone with an orange piece of paper.
                There are many other contexts where we need to be mindful that the people we have asked to participate are given the authority for that to be meaningful.

                He knew them
                Verses 2-4 list the disciples, because Jesus knew those he was sending out.
                This thought does depend on your context and what you are asking in terms of participation. If you are a communicator that regularly speaks with different groups, then you will look for levels of participation that can work for those contexts. We have all been part of groups where mis-managed participation disrupted what we were looking to do.
                If you are in a familiar group then your knowledge of the individuals can help you take the participation to a different level. At the level of participation that Jesus asked for, he knew them by name and had been with them for a while.

                He gave clear and specific instruction with both boundaries and expectations
                Verses 5-8 show us that Jesus did not send the disciples out willy-nilly and without purpose, he told them where they should go and where they shouldn't go. He told them what they should do as they went. Their participation was not haphazard but directed and so meaningful.
                To get meaningful participation from young people, giving guidelines and boundaries helps set them up for success. Will they need to be refocussed sometimes, most likely, but laying a clear foundation is crucial.

                It was a growth exercise
                Verses 9-16 gives more context and some fairly challenging parameters. They had to rely on the generosity of those they were ministering to in order to eat and sleep. With the young people that we lead, they may expect to participate at a certain level, but if we are committed to their growth, then sometimes we need to help them grow. Comfort is our default setting but growth requires stretching and stepping beyond what we know. So we challenge them to do things that are uncomfortable, that involves risk, and may even fail.
                Why do we do that, set them up for risk and possible failure? Because God's purposes and sacrifice require that his kingdom grow. It must grow in our hearts and in our world, and doing the same thing day after day, week after week out of habit does not honour his purpose, sacrifice and kingdom. Faith and obedience should be growing in our hearts and lives, and his love being expressed into our world.
                Take it in steps, but I encourage you to challenge your youth to greater participation and greater service, for the sake of God's kingdom.

                There was probably a debrief and discussion
                We do not see it in this passage specifically, but if Jesus it did it at other times then it is fairly likely that there was a discussion about how it went. I believe it honours the process if we make sure that we help the young people evaluate their experiences. Again, context will mean the application of this may vary, but it is important to do for our young people to get the most out of it.
                Just as we should be evaluating, we should teach our young people to evaluate too. It brings self-awareness and increases the impact of the experience.

                 

                What do you think? What are some ways you can increase and add participation this coming week?

                 

                Other posts in this series:

                Walk By Faith - 2 Corinthians 5:7

                Posted: 
                Thursday, August 29, 2019

                2 Corinthians 5:7 Walk by faith Not by sight

                Build A Ministry To Parents In Four Steps

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, August 28, 2019

                Today's resource is based on a series of articles from Ministry to Parents.com which shows 4 steps for building a Parent Ministry.

                You can follow the links below to access each of the articles and their downloadable resources. I have taken their model and some of their content, but where I felt there could be more I have added my 2 cents. Part of their purpose is for you to use their service in ministry to parents and if you want to sign up then by all means have a look at what they offer and make use of their service, but if you just want content so you can start something yourself then please read their original articles via the links and our additions below.

                Original articles are:

                 

                The Roadmap

                For many of us, the only thing that keeps us from getting started is finding the first step. What if you want to build a ministry to parents in your church?

                • You know that parents are the most significant spiritual influence in the lives of the kids you serve.
                • You know you are called to teenagers or children but also have an opportunity to minister to their whole family!
                • You know that you should be ministering to parents.

                You’re not exactly sure how to do it, so where do you start? Here is the Ministry to Parents Road Map:

                ministry to parents road map

                It’s a guide to help you get started partnering with parents. Each step along this journey will help you and your church multiply your ministry efforts by leveraging the powerful influence of parents.

                 

                Step 1: Build a Parent Ministry Plan

                There are many components involved in building a parent ministry plan. One of the fundamental features is a SAFE and STRUCTURED ministry. When parents visit your church for the first time, they may ask, “Will my kid be safe?”  And if they don’t ask, they’re thinking it. Setting guidelines and expectations, doing background checks, and having a well thought out application for volunteers communicates to parents trust, safety, security and structure. 

                From Youth Min NZ's perspective, some other aspects that you should consider in your Parent Ministry Plan are:

                • Who you have that can take point for this area? Do you have an empty nester who would love to help other parents, or an older person who can love on parents, or a parent in your ministry with a heart for other parents etc.
                • What would help the parents in your church? This will involve some conversations and research, rather than just assumptions.
                • Once you have things working in your church, would you look to serve parents in your local community? How would you do that?
                • What resources are available to you? Parenting organisations like Parenting Place, Focus on the Family, other churches etc. Marriage resources like Family Life's Weekend to Remember etc
                • What will you offer and how often? Articles, books, training/courses, support groups or small groups. parent/child events, other outside events and resources, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually
                • How will you communicate with the parents? Email, newsletters, text, social media, website etc
                • What is your review cycle for adjusting and tweaking?
                • What are your health and safety policies? As this will also help build trust with parents.

                Those are at least some starting points, but I think the most important thing to do is to make the plan achieveable. You might have big plans, but it might take 2 years before you have the right structures and volunteers in place, so plan in phases, starting with what you can do over the next 3 months and expand from there.

                 

                Step 2: Encourage Parents

                When you decided to step into your role in youth ministry, I imagine you were excited to work with the children or teenagers. But then, you quickly discovered early on those students have parents. And when those parents need encouragement, they come to you because you love working with their students.

                But…are there times as a minister where you don’t feel like a parenting expert? If so, me too. Parenting is hard, and I’m not sure anyone can claim to be an expert at it.

                But I have some good news for you!

                Parents don’t need us to be experts.  They need us to be encouragers.

                Now that’s a job any of us can do.

                Every time you walk through the hallways of your church, you have the opportunity to interact with parents who are:

                • Disappointed – their kid didn’t live up to their expectations and feel shame
                • Discouraged – they feel hopeless about their kid’s situation or behavior
                • Angry – their family just finished an intense fight in the car on the way to church
                • Hurting – their kid faces a struggle or traumatic event that has the parent reeling
                • Afraid – they feel fear over their kid daily

                The bottom line is that the opportunity to encourage parents is so BIG we can’t ignore it anymore.

                • To the disappointed parent, you become a safe listener.
                • To the discouraged parent, you become a reminder there is hope.
                • To the angry parent, you become a calming presence.
                • To the hurting parent, you become a physical representation of God’s comfort.
                • To the fearful parent, you become a faithful friend.

                From Youth MIn NZ's side, some practical ideas on how to encourage parents might be:

                • Let them know that they are not alone
                • If it is a common issue, then let them know that it is normal and maybe have some books, podcasts or articles handy that you can pass to them to help them
                • Pray with them
                • Find specific ways to speak well of their youth. If they have a great attitude or you have seen growth or positive change, or there is a talent or ability that you have noticed, then let the parents know.
                • Honour them for who they are and the good aspects of their parenting
                • Follow up and follow through. If you have had a conversation then make a note to follow up with that parent in the next 1-2 weeks with an encouraging text or similar. And if you say you are going to do something then do it.

                 

                Step 3: Help Parent's Lead

                Here are some truths you might have heard about parents:

                • TRUTH #1- Parents are the most significant spiritual influence in the lives of their kids.
                • TRUTH #2- The students you serve spend the majority of their time at home with their parents and not at your church.

                What if you trained parents to act as a minister to their kids?

                If so, then the greatest influencers who spend the most time around our students become the primary source of spiritual encouragement.

                Think of the possibilities.  We work smarter, not harder to carry out God’s calling on our lives to see young people discipled.

                From Youth Min NZ, some ideas that you could consider are:

                • Communicate with parents in regards to what you are teaching their youth in small groups or at services and include some questions to help spark conversation with their youth
                • Speak supportively about parents and family. We should never undermine parents, especially if we are only hearing the youth's side of a situation. Parents aren't perfect but in the list of people that care for the youth, they have done it longer than us and will continue to do it after we have gone, so we need to give them their due respect.
                • Make resources available that will help them, whether that is a culture update, a parenting book or website, or some discussion starters
                • Communicate big events or changes early and across as many channels as possible. Families are busy and if we want the support of families then we need to get information into their hands so they can plan.
                • Let families win. Yes we want our programs and events to be well attended and effective, but if a youth misses your program because of a family commitment, we should celebrate that the family spent time together and we should pray that it brought them closer together. This may even go as far as to changing your events. One example is that we run a summer camp at our church and one year it was run over New Years, which gave an opportunity for a fun party, but with many parents on holiday with annual shut-downs we separated youth from their families during a time that normally had them all together. We moved our camp into mid January so families could be together and the youth could go to camp after parents were back at work.

                 

                Step 4: Care For Your Soul

                This step is the most foundational of them all. Why?

                There is no ministry if the minister burns out.

                I have a question for you. Who ministers to you?

                I know who serves the kids and teenagers in your church. You.
                I know who serves the parents in your church. You.
                But who is caring for you? 

                You might read that and say, “How does soul care fit into Ministry to Parents?”

                Ministry is hard enough as it is.  We are on the front lines in a Spiritual Battle. We have our callings to shepherd our walks with Christ, our relationships with our family, and lead others to do the same.

                This responsibility gets even harder when:

                • We’re burning out and struggling to find passion, energy, and motivation.
                • We’re trying to connect with God, but are struggling to grow spiritually.
                • Our family is going through a crisis, and the conflict wears us down.

                We understand how hard it is to take care of ourselves as we care for others. This struggle is why we create content concentrated on how to care for the soul. We want to help you “watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).

                 

                Here at Youth Min NZ, we hope this content has been helpful. If you want to discuss starting or improving your parent ministry, then you can go to Ministry to Parents.com, or you can contact us and we would love to help however we can.

                Blog tags: 

                Deer in the Air Tonight

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, August 27, 2019

                I am an amateur and average drummer, and a Phil Collins fan, so this doubly amused me. Sadly I think the deer does it better than I could.

                 

                Stand Strong

                Posted: 
                Monday, August 26, 2019

                Alistair Brownlee helps brother Jonny over the line after collapsing in triathlon

                Eph 6:10-11
                Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 

                I find myself regularly trying to stand in my own strength, in the power of my own abilities. I take the lessons learnt over the years and skills I have developed to create programs, strategies, structures & systems, and apply them into the current situation. And some success can be found in those things because they can be based on principles that God set up.

                Ephesians brings us back to the reality that should be worked out in our lives as Christian leaders, that we are in need of a Lord and a Saviour. Not a saviour like Superman that swoops in, rescues us from the situation and leaves, but a saviour that steps into the world with us. Who experienced and felt the same things we have, the joys and struggles, the love and the despair, who sees us at our lowest and highest, and who reaches out a hand to us. Who imparts strength to us that we might stand, but not just stand but to stand in strength.

                And not a Lord who dictates and determines paths without care for those he leads, but a Lord who puts purpose in our hearts and then gives us the resources to fulfill that purpose. A Lord who is committed to our ultimate good and to his kingdom coming in our life and world.

                There is strength available for you to stand, and to stand strong.

                In Maori there is a phrase "Kia Kaha", which means stand strong, keep going and when you say it to someone it has a sense that we are with you. I understand the sentiment and solidarity expressed, but kia kaha is not sufficient for fulling God's purposes, it needs to be kia kaha i roto i te Ariki (be strong in the Lord).

                Isn't it amazing to think that we serve a God that doesn't load us with burdens that we can't carry. Any task, purpose, expectation that he might have for us comes with the promise of the resources to fulfill it.

                Whatever need you have, whatever situation you are facing, you can stand in his strength. Whether the outcome is one we hoped for or one we wanted to avoid, we can stand in his strength. Whether we are facing the challenges that come with growth or we feel like we are floundering and unfruitful, we can stand in his strength.

                I am praying for you, that you would stand strong today, in the power and strength of the Lord.

                Developing an EPIC Generation - Experiential

                Posted: 
                Friday, August 23, 2019

                man crowd surfing at a concert

                The first time I heard the concept of an EPIC generation was through Tim Elmore from Growing Leaders. EPIC is this understanding that the current generation is Experiential, Participatory, Image-rich & Connected, and if we are going to teach and develop young people then we need to be communicating in these ways, because they are more meaningful to them.

                To be entirely honest, many of those things are not exclusive to the current generation, there have always been people who learn better from hands on experience than listening, or who retained concepts when they were presented as images etc, it just seems that these attributes describe more of the population and that they have the range rather than 1-2 of them.

                Today I wanted to expand on the concept of Experiential and I will cover the other aspects in future posts.

                It seems that many of our environments are set up as lectures, whether that is a school environment, a church service, a conference, a training course etc, and yet we retain only around 5% of what we hear. Good communicators will use slides when given the opportunity which might get us up to around 20% retention, but the research shows that retention gets close to 75% if there is an opportunity to practice by doing.

                The reason I picked the image I did for this post is because listening to music is like listening to a lecture, it engages the hearing and in the moment you are engaged and maybe even moved. If it carries meaning for you then you will likely remember aspects of it into the future. But a concert is more impactful. The experience includes sights, sounds, smells, touch, tastes, connections that are missing if you are only listening. A live concert is a full experience.

                To develop young people into disciples and leaders, we need to think about what experiences we can expose them to that will help shape and develop them. The impact of a missions trip to a teenager is much greater than just hearing about the need and seeing some slides or videos. The experience of sharing their faith, or of praying for someone, or of defending their faith is far more effective than just being told about how to do these things.

                Even practical things like budgeting, dating, interviews, relationships, cooking etc are all best learnt with an experience.

                If you plan and run a series in your small groups or teaching calendar, try and make one week or one aspect experiential, and make time to debrief and discuss the experience. Because greater than experience is evaluated experience.

                One example that I did with the youth I was leading was a walk through the miracles of the Bible. I can't remember all the aspects but I set up one area with blue lights, fans and big curtains to replicate the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. In another space I set up as many heaters as I could in a small room with red lights to replicate Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego in the fiery furnace. In those spaces we spoke about the character of God and his power.

                The ideas are limitless and we serve a creative God who can inspire you as you lead, disciple, develop and teach young people.

                Ask yourself this question: What can I do in the next 2 weeks to add an experiential aspect to our teaching/development?

                We would love to hear what you try and how it goes.

                 

                Other posts in this series:

                Called to Freedom - Galatians 5:1

                Posted: 
                Thursday, August 22, 2019

                Blog tags: 

                Training Needs Analysis

                Posted: 
                Thursday, August 22, 2019

                Another resource which can be found within the Sustainable Practices resources is a Training Needs Analysis. I have created an online version which will send you an email with your results and you can also send a copy to a senior pastor/supervisor/mentor for further discussion.

                Hope this helps you develop as a leader.

                Training Needs Analysis

                Mark Cole: Turn Mistakes into Success

                Posted: 
                Thursday, August 22, 2019

                Photo by Jungwoo Hong on Unsplash

                 

                This article was first posted on JohnMaxell.com, for the original and other resources, please check out their website.

                 

                If you’re human, you are going to make mistakes. I love Denis Waitley’s perspective: “Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience.”

                John Maxwell says there are two kinds of people in regards to setbacks: splatters, who hit the bottom, fall apart and stay on the bottom; and bouncers, who hit rock bottom, pull themselves together, and bounce back up.

                Here are a few thoughts that will help you turn your mistakes into success.

                1. Don’t base your self-worth on your mistakes.

                Your value as a human being is found in far more than your performance. You can become your own worst enemy by telling yourself, “I am a failure,” or “I’ll never be good enough.” If you fail, keep a healthy perspective and coach yourself up. You are not defined by your worst moments.

                2. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.

                When you make a mistake, pick yourself up quickly and get moving again. If you start to wallow, you might get stuck. Focus on the good that you can make out of the difficulty. Don’t forget, the experience that you gain from mistakes will serve you well five years down the road when you are leading someone going through something similar.

                3. Do consider your failures as a process to learn and improve.

                Take the attitude of a scientist: when their work fails, they just call it an experiment that didn’t work! It is amazing how something this simple can change your perspective and attitude about making a mistake. Psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers said, “The person interested in success has to learn to view failure as a healthy, inevitable part of the process of getting to the top.”

                4. Don’t give up!

                Author and speaker Og Mandino has some impactful words on this topic. He said, “Mistakes are life’s way of teaching you. Your capacity for occasional blunders is inseparable from your capacity to reach your goals. How will you know your limits without an occasional failure?” Shake it off. Your turn will come. Believing that is essential for success.

                If you are facing a bad experience because of a mistake that you made, let the bad experience lead you to a good experience. Remember, good experiences are often a result of previous bad experiences. Bad experiences are only bad if you fail to learn from them.

                Ask yourself this question: How can I take this bad experience and turn it into a better one?

                I’ll always remember these strong words from Winston Churchill, “Success is not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”

                 

                This article was originally posted by Mark Cole at JohnMaxell.com. Please go and check out their other resources.

                Training Needs Analysis

                Every person who serves in youth ministry can use further development and equipping. This Training Needs Analysis survey, that has been taken from Sustainable Practices for Youth Ministry, will quickly identify the most helpful areas you could focus your efforts to sharpen your skills. When you are considering different youth ministry training possibilities, look for those possibilities that address the specific areas which were ticked in the first or second columns. Don’t just work through the Training Needs Analysis once—use it again in a year’s time to monitor your own development and reassess where you should focus your own equipping journey.
                If you want someone else to receive your results then please add them here. For multiple people, please separate with comma.
                For each category of training, tick either the "Poorly Equipped," "Moderately Equipped," or "Well Equipped” column. The analysis survey should only take a few minutes to complete.
                Poorly EquippedModerately EquippedWell Equipped
                Adolescent Growth and Development *
                Transitioning Youth through Developmental Stages *
                Trends in Youth Culture *
                Youth Evangelism *
                Youth Discipleship *
                Leading Youth Games/Activities *
                Pastoral Youth Counseling and Listening Skills *
                Youth Mentoring *
                Ministering to Youth in Crisis *
                Leading Small Groups *
                Developing Leaders *
                Creating and Implementing an Internship Program *
                Building/Working with a Volunteer Team *
                Technology and Social Media *
                God Talks that Engage Youth *
                Preaching *
                Teaching *
                Engaging with and Supporting Parents *
                Family-Based Youth Ministry *
                Partnership with Schools *
                Community Engagement *
                Integration of Youth in the Intergenerational Church *
                Working with other Church Staff *
                Youth Camps/Retreats *
                Health and Safety in Youth Ministry *
                Working with Intermediate Students *
                Working with College Students *
                Working with Uni Students and Young Adults *
                Bible Study Methods *
                Old Testament *
                New Testament *
                Christian Theology *
                Church History *
                Christian Apologetics *
                Personal Leadership Development *
                Personal Health (Stress/Burnout) *
                Planning to Succeed *
                Starting a New Group or New Mission Initiative *
                Budgeting and Accessing Funding *

                Skit Guys - Ask Tommy & Eddie

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, August 20, 2019

                Tommy & Eddie are the Skit Guys. They have some pretty funny videos and have started doing a Q&A video series, which is quite amusing. Check it out.

                 

                Blog tags: 

                Funny Tiger Meme

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, August 6, 2019

                I know this shows my age, but when scouting for something funny to share for Tuesday's chuckle I saw this and had to share it. If you have no idea why this is funny then ask someone who was around in the 80s or check out the music video or the Rocky video

                 

                The Most Committed To Young People

                Posted: 
                Monday, August 5, 2019

                I read the testimony of a pastor's kid and their personal experience of God as part of their journey to their own relationship with God. You can read the article here at YouthMinistry.com.

                I was reminded that as youth leaders and youth pastors, we create environments and opportunities within our programming for kids to experience God, and some kids connect with God in those moments, and some do not. We can sometimes be disappointed when we don't see the response that we hoped for. In the testimony, the girl left the service and altar call. It was not that she was rejecting God, it was just that the experience at that moment was not what she needed. She needed something personal and private, something new and fresh, something unique.

                God met her in the middle of that field, with no music to create atmosphere, with no flashing lights and no one praying with her.

                I was reminded that while we may be called to serve young people and their families, and that calling involves bringing young people into a closer relationship with the God who loves them, we are not the most committed to these young people connecting with God. God is the most committed to seeing them connect with Him. He has given more for the relationship, He has invested more than we ever could, He has been active and involved longer than we have in their lives. We have the privilege of partnering with Him but sometimes the change or experience is not because of our efforts or program, it is simply because a loving God is reaching out to a young person and they are reaching out to Him. And that encounter can happen in the middle of field, in a bedroom, in a movie theatre, at a concert, at a grocery store or at our youth group.

                Are youth groups and youth leaders a part of the picture? Totally. Don't stop serving God or young people by running relevant and effective ministries. Reaching out to, loving, discipling, developing, releasing young people.

                Is your program or youth ministry the only way that young people encounter God? Absolutely not. God is bigger than us (thankfully) and he is working much harder than we are to bring every young person into relationship with him.

                Two things that I want you to take away from this thought -

                1. God is bigger than our programs
                Don't limit God's interaction and influence in young people's lives to your programs, events and schedules. We want young people who are maturing in their faith and capable of living out their faith independently of youth group environments, and to do that we need to learn to give them some latitude, some freedom to seek and understand God beyond our programs. Letting them find God for themselves, because we won't be there to help them all the time.

                2. God is bigger than our misses
                Sometimes we miss the mark. Sometimes a young person slips through the cracks. Maybe we didn't connect with them, maybe they were EGRs (Extra Grace Required) and we didn't have the resources to care for them well enough, maybe life got difficult and their faith couldn't cope, maybe they chose to live a life the excluded God. Those moments are difficult but I encourage you to review what could have been done better, because if there are ways to improve then we should, but also entrust them to the hands of a loving God who is still committed to them and still at work to bring them into relationship.

                 

                It is a privilege to serve in youth ministry and I count it a privilege to serve youth leaders however I can. I hope this blog post helps you broaden your view of God, and helps you lean more into Him. He loves you, He loves the young people you serve, and He has the wisdom and resource for you in your current situation and season.

                 

                Photo by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

                Serving Into Greatness

                Posted: 
                Friday, August 2, 2019

                Jesus said to his disciples on a number of occasions that whoever wants to become great must become the servant of all. (Mt 20:26, Mt 23:11). Jesus did not say don't desire to become great, don't try to become great, he just said that the pathway and price to greatness is serving.

                Some attributes of a servant to consider

                 

                Good Servants know who their master is

                First and foremost, as a Christian our master is God. Yes, God has set up earthly structures with leaders and managers, but they are stewards of what God has given to them, they are accountable for what God has entrusted to them. (I would love to go off on a tangent and rant about leaders who over-step their delegated authority, but that may be for a different day.)

                Our responsibility as Good Servants seeking greatness, is to know who our ultimate master is, and understand how to serve Him first. That means we need to be in contact with Him regularly. We are not perfect which means that we sometimes mishear, misunderstand, misinterpret or make mistakes in hearing and carrying out our Master's will. Keeping connection and contact with Him helps us course correct early, because the Holy Spirit is sent to us as a guide.

                Within our lives, we do also need to understand the structures that we are operating in, and the people, roles and authority involved. Because our service is done in the context of our current situation we need wisdom to not just obey blindly, but obey effectively.

                How does that apply in youth ministry specifically? If there is any ministry that needs us to be confident in our God and our calling it is youth ministry. In our hearts we have to keep God as our master, but in reality we are often buffeted with others who think we answer to them first. If we are in a church context then we serve with a Senior Pastor/Leader or Elders/Deacons (depending on structure) and possibly another direct report who we answer to. These have been given that responsibility and are part of the picture, but we then have parents and youth who have an opinion. We have a society that has an opinion about what and how we should do things. We have other "helpful" members of our church who may have an opinion.

                I encourage you to be wise and loving in your interactions with people, but maintain God as the master of your life.

                 

                Good Servants reflect their master's priorities

                A Good Servant does not operate independantly, based on their own priorities and views, their actions reflect on their Master and so they know and live out of those priorities. If I were to summarise God's priorities I would say that they are His Kingdom moving forward in people's lives and that kingdom being expressed in love, grace and truth.

                His Kingdom is not a tangible kingdom, but one that lives in the hearts and lives of those who follow him. Sometimes there is a mis-match between a person's heart and their actions. I have heard it said recently that the spirit of man is made alive and holy at salvation, our bodies will be renewed at the resurrection/end times but our soul is in process. And I would whole heartedly agree. We are broken and those around us are broken, and so we must constantly remind ourselves when we are working with people that we are to reflect our Master's priorities. We are looking to see His Kingdom progress but with an attitude of love, grace and truth.

                How does that apply to youth leaders? We can be pressured to run ministries that are not balanced or focussed on God's priorities. For some they are pressured to make it about how many youth were at your recent event/program and never a focus on whether youth are moving forward in their understanding of the Gospel and their relationship with God. For others it might be about whether they achieved a certain standard or level of excellence, and no focus on the health and longevity of the leaders that serve in the ministry. For some it might be about the health and wellbeing of the youth who already attend to the detriment of reaching out into the "messy and broken" youth in our community. If we are to be Good Servants of God and his people, we must know our God's priorities and work to make those our priorities.

                I want to encourage you to understand and fully adopt God's priorities.

                 

                Good Servants obey their master

                This almost goes without saying, but we should be increasingly obedient to our God. This is obvious and yet we find ourselves at tension with this so often. Whether it is a call to fast, or get up 15 minutes earlier to pray, or to pray for a colleague or unchurched friend who is going through something, we can find ourselves resisting. Or maybe it is just me. I don't want to labour on this but Good Servants obey, and if we are looking to serve into greateness, then obedience is the path. Trust is grown when we obey. If we can't be generous when we have $100 to our name, then we are unlikely to be generous when we have $1,000. So then why would God trust is with the greater when we can't be faithful with the smaller.

                How does this apply as we lead young people? If we are not faithful and obedient when we are responsible for 5-10 young people, then it is only a matter of time before even what you have may be taken from you. Don't get me wrong, there are people with charisma and natural leadership who can draw a crowd and build a team to put on events and programs, and they do it out of their own abilities and without God. And they may even maintain it for a number of years, but growth is a magnifier. It exposes the strengths and the weaknesses in organisations and in leaders. The only way for long term effectiveness is to first be a disciple and follower of God.

                I encourage you to practice obedience in you day to day living.

                 

                Good Servants are humble, self-aware and willing

                Good Servants are not proud or self-seeking. They elevate and seek the best for their Master, and their Master's priorities. God's priority is His Kingdom in the lives of people and our greatness is measured in the success of that mission.

                Good Servants are aware of their strengths and weaknesses. I believe they do their best to honour their unique God-design by operating out of their SHAPES (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experience & Season), but without determining that any task is "beneath" them.

                Operating out of our uniqueness and letting other people operate out of theirs will produce a great outcome. The picture is like an orchestra that works together to produce a beautiful piece of music, but it would be a shambles if the violin tried to play the part of the tuba, or the cymbals tried to play the part of the trombone. They are designed for a specific sound and weaved into the music in a way that honours that sound and the overall symphony. In serving, we can become great when we let others shine in their uniqueness while also honouring our own.

                In balance to that, we should never respond to a task or responsibility as if you were too important to perform it, if we are able to.

                How does that land within youth ministry? I believe an example might help. Say you are running a youth church service and you are preaching that night. You feel properly prepared although maybe a little nervous. You go into the bathroom for a last minute "stop off" and when you wash your hands you notice that the bench is a mess and that the hand towels have almost run out. To me, it would be servant-like to pop your head out of the toilet door and ask one of your team to sort out the hand towel situation before popping back into the bathroom to wipe down and tidy the bench. You are then helping others to express service while still expressing an act of service. It would not be servant-like to find the person responsible for hosting and keeping the toilets tidy, yelling at them about the state of the bathrooms and telling them to sort it out, because you have just prioritise a clean bathroom over the person.

                Good Servants work to their strengths, they give others the opportunity to work to their strengths but they never think of themselves as above any task.

                 

                Greatness is possible, but it comes to those who know know who their true Master is, they understand and adopt the priorities of their Master, they obey their Master, they understand their uniqueness and the uniqueness of others and they operate in humility. 

                Our Struggle - Ephesians 6:12

                Posted: 
                Thursday, August 1, 2019

                Sometimes we go through difficult moments, and sometimes those moments come through people. We have to remind ourselves that ultimately our struggle is not against people but against spiritual forces.

                Keep the faith, lean into God.

                 

                Photo from Heartland

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                Mental Health Initiative - Āpōpō

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, July 31, 2019

                Scripture Union NZ have put together an initiative to support people in this important area of mental health and suicide. What they have created is a short program that looks to act as an initial conversation to equip people with the basic tools to support those around them.

                Their website explains it that Āpōpō:

                • Provides tools for helping ourselves, our friends and whānau.
                • Is based on biblical principles.
                • Looks at the warning signs of someone who is struggling.
                • Emphasises the power and practice of listening.
                • Recognises the importance of asking questions in a safe space.
                • Explores the concept, ‘Safe for now’.
                • Teaches skills that anyone can utilise, regardless of their qualification.
                • Embraces a holistic approach to health, best embodied in the ‘Te Whare Tapa Whā’ model.
                • Does not replace a professional approach. It is an initial conversation to equip people with the basic tools to support those around them
                • Āpōpō takes 2-3 hours to present. This can be done all in one block, or we can split the programme into an initial 2 hour block, with a 1 hour follow-up session at a later date.

                I encourage you to look into it for your leaders, your youth and your church

                Try This If Going For Surgery

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, July 30, 2019

                There is always time for a laugh. Have a read.

                Who do you know that would do this? I can think of at least 2-3 people.

                 

                Image taken from Postive Memes Facebook Page

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                4 Reminders For When You Feel Like Giving Up

                Posted: 
                Monday, July 29, 2019

                Below is an article from Courage To Lead, shared with their permission. We hope you enjoy it and it helps you lead well.

                 

                You’re a leader.

                There is a lot involved in that. You have opportunities to improve people’s lives, create positive change in the world, and leave things better than you found them. Influence is your currency, so impact can be your legacy.

                But before you put on your cape and start saving the, there’s something you need to know. Something that most leadership books gloss over or avoid altogether. Something that can shift your perspective, encourage your heart, and keep you focused.

                You are going to have hard days.

                Below are some essential realities that most leaders don’t talk about. While they often go undiscussed, these truths are always felt.

                Leadership is hard.

                Whoever said being a leader is easy has obviously never been a leader. Making tough decisions, dealing with difficult personalities, intense pressure, managing problems and never having a quitting time are just a sample of the obstacles leaders face.

                Difficult circumstances cause many leaders to quit. Giving up is the kryptonite of impact. Develop grit and toughness now, because you're going to need it. Sometimes success is largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. There are hard days and hard decisions ahead of you. Do not quit. Resolve to do what is right above what is easy.

                Leadership is thrilling.

                Being a leader is like riding a roller coaster. There are ups, downs, feelings of fear, and times you wish the ride would just end! Instead of viewing this as a negative, embrace the adventure of it. Leadership is a thrill ride.

                I love doing things that get my blood pumping. I have jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, hiked the steps of the pyramids in Egypt and been driven way too fast in a professional race car! Adventure thrills me. Just like any thrill, there is a bit of fear involved. Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will. Seize fear instead of allowing it to seize you. The positive side of fear is it offers you the opportunity to overcome something!  Overcome fear and lean into the thrill of leading.

                Leadership is a grind.

                Leaders show up every day. There will be days when you feel in the zone, everything clicks for you. Conversely, some days come down to showing up when you do not feel like it. More often than not being a leader is grinding out mundane day-to-day issues. Commit to the grunt work of leadership

                Consistency counts. The process is rarely sexy or cool. Greatness is found in the shadows of faithfulness rather than the spotlight of fame. Show up tomorrow and give yourself to the grind.

                Leadership is worth it.

                A leader does not simply perform a job, they answer a deeper calling. The work you put in matters. You are making a difference. You may not see the fruit of your work right now, but the best results take time to materialize. Keep going. Push harder. Don't stop. It is worth it.

                If you are struggling today, stay in the game. Own these truths and know your work counts. When I face difficult moments as a leader I focus less on tasks and more on people. People are the end game of leadership. To help you stay focused, put yourself in a place to serve those you lead. People matter. People are why you lead. Serving people reminds you that leadership is worth it.


                Shawn Bio.png

                 

                You can read more articles and see more about Courage to Lead on their website - CourageToLead.com or on social media via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn

                How To Handle the Weekly Ebb and Flow of Youth Ministry

                Posted: 
                Friday, July 26, 2019

                Photo by James Qualtrough on Unsplash

                 

                   I recently had an exchange with a youth leader related to the normal weekly ebb and flow of youth ministry. It is not something I have thought about recently, but if we have been in youth ministry for a while then we have had to come to terms with the rhythm of ministry. On a week to week basis we have natural rises and falls. We build up towards our weekend programs and then it dips after that. We lift towards a mid-week program and then ease down. And then at various times we have bigger rises and falls where we have a big outreach or event. 

                   As I was thinking about the topic I was reminded of the ocean tides, and the plants and creatures that exist in the tidal zone. (As the parent of a 7 year old, I have to admit that what came to mind was an episode of the Magic School Bus.) The current ministry environment is very similar to the tidal zone.

                   The plants and animals in the tidal zone know, and are prepared for, the changing tides. They know the lift and turmoil of the incoming tide, culminating in a high tide. They know the drag and flow of the outgoing tide, finishing with the low tide. There are things to learn from them that we can apply to youth ministry.

                 

                1. They make their home on the rock

                   Plants and animals that live in the tidal zone are predominantly found on the rocks. The rocks are stable and give them grounding. Rocks don't shift or move with the tide like sand does. The plants anchor themselves to the rock, some of the animals anchor themselves and some animals find shelter in the crevices and rock pools.
                   With the ebb and flow of youth ministry, our emotions, soul, body and spirit lift and dip, and we should make our foundation on the Rock too. Of course our rock is Jesus and our relationship with him. We need to anchor our identity in him, we need to embed our security in his love for us, we need to shelter our souls in his caring and careful hands. One of the messianic prophecies is found in Isaiah 42 and verse three says "A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;". Our Jesus is compassionate and kind, he wants us to bring forth his kingdom on earth, but understands our humanity, our weaknesses and frailties, and our potential.
                   The plants and animals that thrive in the ebb and flow, are the ones that have established themselves firmly on the rock.

                   How is your relationship with Jesus?

                 

                2. They know and expect the rhythm

                   The life that exists in the tidal zone is not surprised when the tide goes out after a couple of hours. They aren't thinking to themselves "What is happening?!?!" They understand and expect that the tide comes in and lifts them, bringing nutrients and good things. They also know that the tide will go out, leaving them a bit drier, maybe hunkered down in a rock pool to protect themselves from drying out completely. And when the tide is out, they know that if they stay on the rock, if they take care of themselves through this moment that the tide will come back in.   In all these moments, they are prepared. As the tide comes in, they are preparing and ready to open up and make the most of the opportunities that are coming their way. And as the tide recedes, they are preparing and getting ready to settle down until the next time around, conserving what they have to make sure they make it through.
                   In week to week ministry, if we are not prepared for the dips that often follow the highs, then we can wonder what is wrong with us. We can have a great weekend of youth and ministry, but so often on Monday we still have doubts about ourselves and what we achieved. It is even more so if we went into the weekend with high expectations that were not met.
                   Your body is not designed to live at a constant level of excitement or stress, it is always trying to find balance. As we work towards running a program or event, we can get a sense of excitement and/or stress. That can be a good thing in that it can help you focus and achieve more, but once that stress or excitement has been relieved, once the event or program is over, your body is trying to return to its normal state. So the chemicals and hormones that were released under "stress", stop being released and the opposing chemicals and hormones are released to rebalance the body. Unfortunately the rebalancing can swing past "balance" and in the opposite direction before it corrects and finds normal. So the correction to the high can over-correct before it finds balance and gets to normal.
                   Of course Satan has been an observer of humanity for thousands of years, so not only does our body play a part, I am sure that Satan also uses these opportunities to influence us. The Bible talks about us not being ignorant of the Devil and his schemes, and I am sure this is one of them. I believe the phrase "kick 'em while they're down" is fairly accurate here. Sadly some of his agents are disguised as people in our world, who in their brokenness can bring forth discouragement right when we don't need it (but that is a blog post all on its own).
                   If we understand some of these rhythms, we are more prepared for them and more able to push past the dips. We become more able to stay for the long term, rather than getting discouraged in the moments. We would think that there was something wrong with the oysters and crabs if they abandoned the beach just because the tide went out, yet we can find ourselves doing something similar if we are not prepared.

                Do you know your weekly rhythms? Are you prepared for them and how they affect you?

                 

                3. They capitalize on the high tide

                   When the tide is in and water is all around them, those plants and animals are all gathering nutrients, they are absorbing needed water, they are grabbing food etc. They know that if they wait too long then they will miss the opportunity, so they make the most of it.
                   We should do the same. When things are flowing, in the buzz and excitement of a gathering of young people, we need to be focussed on our purpose and mission. We should be connecting with young people, absorbing those great things that sustain our souls, fulfilling our calling, leading, preaching, lifting, serving, reaching etc. Because we have the opportunity right then, and we don't want to miss it.
                   Whether one youth shows up or multitudes, we show them God's love, we execute on our plan.
                   Matthew 9:37-38 says Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” In those moments where we are leading and ministering, we are the answer to that prayer, we are stepping into the harvest, into the lives of young people to bring them closer to the God who loves them. Make the most of those moments and celebrate them as they happen.

                Are you making the most of the opportunities when they come?

                 

                4. They know how to continue through the low tide

                   As the tide begins to flow out, preparation begins on the rock for the next phase. As the waves come less and less, the plants and animals close up and those who need shelter find their hiding or resting spots. Those who had open shells, close them to preserve the moisture inside. As we finish our event, pack up, debrief, celebrate the wins etc, we also need to begin preparing for what comes next. Remember that humans are complex beings, our spirit affects our soul, our soul affects our body, our body affects our soul and our soul affects our spirit. We exercise our will when we choose which will ultimately rule us, but they interact and influence each other.

                • Physically - leading up to our events or programs, we can become drained physically with lack of sleep, poor diet choices, physcial exertion with set up, running and pack down. So post event, make sure you allow your body to recover. Get some rest and eat healthy is a fairly simple equation.
                • Emotionally - running events and leading youth ministry is a draining activity, and more so if there has been disappointment as well. Physiologically there have been a bunch of chemicals released to help you cope with the stress and excitement, and as mentioned above, these need to rebalance and a bit of a dip is likely. So be prepared for that. Set in place some things that will help you get through. One example might be to practice thankfulness, find one or two things that you can be thankful for, even if that is just a lesson learned. Another example is to journal or to get yourself around good people that fill your cup. Do activities that fill your cup. One word of warning is to watch out for activities that offer artificial highs. Activities like video games, junk food, over eating etc, can all replace the "high" of ministry with an alternative high to try and skip past the low. This is not a healthy way to respond and has consequences that will catch up with you. My advice is to understand the low, experience it, process it and then move back into balance.
                • Mentally - your mental resources have been used and need to replenish, especially if tired. SImilar to the physical, rest, relax, read a book, watch a movie. Don't look to do your budget immediately after a draining event or program.
                • Spiritually - we are spiritual beings, the spirit realm is real and there is a battle going on. So be aware that this is a reality, but always remember that you are not alone and that Jesus is on your side. In the ebb, make sure you don't neglect your relationship with God or his people, put on some music that connects you to God, go for a walk in nature and have a conversation, visit another church sometimes so you can worship anonymously with no expectations from youth, parents or leaders. Take the opportunity to lay the event/program and all the sacrifice at God's feet, asking him to use it for his kingdom and purposes in your life and the lives of those around you.

                What will you put in place today, to make sure you survive the moments of low tide?

                 

                I hope this has been of value to you. If you have questions or comments then please let us know, we would love to hear from you.

                Youth Evangelism Resources

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, July 24, 2019

                 

                Current indicators through out New Zealand is that youth ministry is in a state of decline. I believe that part of that is because the youth in our youth groups are not being equipped and released to reach their friends. GOD-talk's goals are:

                • to see evangelism and outreach training happening in every youth ministry every year
                • for those young people to be encouraged to go into their school and pray together about how they could best represent Christ

                GOD-talk supplies resources and online training videos for leaders to help build a culture of evangelism into their group, as well as videos and discussion guides to help train youth. They also have ideas that can be used in schools that might spark your youth's creativity as they pray about how to represent Christ.

                I encourage you to take 30 minutes, browse the website, watch the videos and then begin to pray about evangelism within the context of your youth, their schools and your community. The Great Commission was not a suggestion, it was an imperative, and resources like GOD-talk can help us to reach these youth.

                If you need some motivation, then check out the video below from Penn Jillette. He is an atheist but when a man approached him with respect and gifted him a Bible, he was not offended. His comments basically say that if you are a Christian and believe in eternity and hell, then it is your duty to share what you believe.

                 

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                Move Out, While You Still Know Everything

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, July 23, 2019

                Its good to have a laugh. I don't generally like reinforcing negative stereotypes about youth or promoting things that encourages unhealthy relationships between parents and youth, but sometimes you just have to have a brief chuckle and acknowledge some of the truth in things.

                 

                 

                 

                Just to balance it with some generic humour, below are a couple of puns for your amusement.

                 

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                Praying for You

                Posted: 
                Monday, July 22, 2019

                Photo by Juliette F on Unsplash

                 

                And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people. Ephesians 6:18

                 

                Please know that you are not alone and that there are people praying for you as you minister to young people. Hopefully you have people in your local context and local church who are lifting you up in prayer, but please know that there are others.

                We may not have met you yet, but we are praying for you. We are lifting you up in prayer. We pray that you would know the grace and peace of God in your personal life and relationships, that you would know his provision in your finances and needs, that you would know his empowering and resourcing as you lead and minister, that your identity would be secure in him and that your effectiveness in serving His kingdom would grow. We pray that you would know his love for you, not just as a concept but in practical and tangible ways. We pray for health in your body and in your family, for divine favour in your business or employment and for supernatural connections.

                We pray that this week, you would know God's love and acceptance, and his favour on what he has called you to do.

                If there is anything specific that we can pray about for you today, then please let us know. We would love to partner with you in that way too.

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                Be Transformed

                Posted: 
                Thursday, July 11, 2019

                Background Photo by Dustin Scarpitti on Unsplash

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                Book - Understanding Sexual Identity

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, July 3, 2019

                I read this book a number of months ago in response to questions by some youth leaders. They were looking for some answers around ministry in the area of sexuality and same sex attraction (SSA). This book is written specifically towards youth ministry and so I found the language was fairly easy to understand, which is always helpful. I would recommend reading it as well.

                This whole area of sexuality, SSA and LGBTQ community is one that we should give thought and consideration to. The church has been known for its historic stance on the issue, although more recently there are groups that have moved away from that. I hope at a later stage to put together a more comprehensive article on this topic. My overall philosophy is that we are called to be Christlike. Christ was the epitomy of love, which did not reject those who needed God but also did not approve of things in their life that were barriers to relationship with God.

                I believe Christ's life expressed love and sacrifice, he lived his life as an example to others and sought to lift their life towards a closer relationship with God without condemning them for where they were at that moment. I believe that it is the function of the Holy Spirit to convict people. The Bible says to become more like Christ, not to be more like the Holy Spirit.

                Anyway, what I love about this book is that it encourages us to look at the concept of identity through a wider lense. When sexuality or SSA is the issue, then we can narrow the definition of our identity to this one aspect. We can forget that if we are discipling young people in their faith, then their identity is in Christ first, not these other areas, and so it starts to reframe the conversation.

                I encourage you to read it and analyse it for yourself. I borrowed it from the public library first before I bought my own copy. You can also pick it up from Amazon or Book Depository

                Sometimes Mistakes Happen LOL

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, July 2, 2019

                We all make mistakes, its always much worse when caught on camera.

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                Love Like Jesus - Part 7 - Practical

                Posted: 
                Monday, July 1, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus loved practically.

                Jesus was not a philosopher that just spoke about concepts and ideas, he was a practioner. He acted on behalf of the Kingdom of God. The first recorded message Jesus spoke in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth is found in Luke 4:16-21
                1He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
                18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
                    because he has anointed me
                    to proclaim good news to the poor.
                He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
                    and recovery of sight for the blind,
                to set the oppressed free,
                19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
                20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him.21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

                In Jesus' public ministry, he didn't just proclaim, be brought it into reality.

                 

                Healings

                Jesus' public ministry included many healings. Lame were given the ability to walk. The blind were given their sight. Lepers were healed of their disease. Fevers were cured. Bleeding that had gone on for many years, no longer bled. The dead were raised back to life.

                His love was not just with words, but with a demonstration of God's power at work in the physical bodies of people.

                 

                Demon's cast out

                Those who were oppressed were released. There were many times where the Bible records that Jesus cast out demons. I think about the man in the tombs who was so afflicted by demons that he ran around naked, cut himself and could break chains. There were so many demons that they self-identified as Legion. That man found freedom and sanity through Jesus.

                I know in our "modern world", that we sometimes think may not be as necessary. What we used to identify as demon possession is now identified as mental illness and we have psychologists, psychiatrist etc who can diagnose and "treat" many of these conditions. I also know that we have a history of well-intentioned Christians who have approached situations with a formula and rather than hearing from God in regards to an individual and responding accordingly. Those actions have sometimes caused complications and issues. Humans are complex beings, with genetics, chemical imbalances, trauma and spiritual forces all having a potential impact on our mental, spiritual and physical condition. And trained professionals absolutely have their place. But we also have the God of the universe who knows the working of the human body, mind and spirit intimately, and who also knows and sees the interactions between the physical world and spiritual world.

                So I think there is a place for us to develop ourselves in this area, so we can truely love our world as Jesus did, setting prisoners free.

                 

                Miracles

                Jesus multiplied a small amount of food in order to feed a massive crowd. The Bible records that Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children in one instance, and a crowd of 4,000 men plus women and children in another. Jesus met the practical need of hunger as an expression of love for the people.

                In another instance he calmed a storm in order alleviate the fears and concerns that the disciples had about their safety.

                 

                The Cross

                The cross was a practical expression of his love. His actions there brought about the possibility of permanent peace with God, which has implications for today and eternity. No longer did followers of God need to travel to the temple and sacrifice on the altar in order to have peace with God. The assurance of forgiveness that the Holy Spirit brings, has practical implications for our own emotional and mental health. It was a physical action that had implications for our whole being.

                I believe, this whole series points us to the cross as the ultimate expression of love. Jesus showed his humility as he allowed his body to be subjected to beating and torture, and his spirit to be separated from God because our sin. He served us by doing what we could never do for ourself. He fulfilled prophecy but also made it possible for us to receive a future that we did not deserve. The cross showed his vulnerabilty as his naked body hung exposed and most of his friends scattered. He expressed forgiveness to those who accused him, to those who abandoned him and to those who had physically injured him. The relevance of his action, as a people in need of a saviour received what they didn't really deserve, may not have been appreciated in the moment but has resounding impact through the pages of history. And it was practical, with application all humanity.

                Why not take a quick moment to thank God, for all that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross achieved, for all that it means and for all that it continues to do in our lives and in our communities through us. Take a moment to accept the love that Jesus has for you, and then make a commitment to be an agent of his love in your world.

                 

                God bless you as you seek after Him, and as you seek to bring God's kingdom into the lives of young people and their families.

                 

                See other posts in this series:

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                Faith

                Posted: 
                Thursday, June 20, 2019

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                Sustainable Practices

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, June 19, 2019

                 

                There are many resources out there to help with sustaining youth ministers. This week's resource is one adapted for New Zealand from other similar documents overseas. They were put together by the Network of National Youth Ministry Leaders, which covers many of the denominations in New Zealand. It is only as good as people's awareness and their application of its principles, so we encourage you to review it, discuss it with your supervisors and see what can be done to implement it. Below is an excerpt from their website about why the resource was created. Have a read and go to their website to download the resource itself - Sustainable Practices

                 

                Many churches throughout Aotearoa are wrestling with the challenge of connecting with young people in our society. Fewer young people and young adults are linked with the church community than in previous generations, yet many of the pressures they face are greater.

                An absolute necessity, if we hope to reach this generation, is longevity of our leaders. Quite simply, it takes time to invest in the lives of young people to build the trust that leads to effective ministry.

                By creating the Sustainable Practices resource, help has been offered to churches in thinking through the key issues of managing a key volunteer youth leader and employing youth workers. This resource contains seven sustainable practices churches should adopt about these issues.

                The seven practices resonate with the very real experiences of volunteer youth leaders up and down the country: they reflect situations where youth leaders and their churches can often find frustration, conflict or simply unmet needs.

                While these sustainable practices may be new to some churches, others will already be embracing several or all of them at some level. However, all churches will find the process beneficial of identifying areas of improvement.

                This resource is meant to help churches take a significant step towards sustainable youth ministry. Longevity for youth leaders means better serving and loving young people in the name of Christ.

                Perception Is Everything

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, June 18, 2019

                Sometimes our heart is expressed in a way that we think we will be appreciated, but just doesn't come across how we want. Enjoy.

                And if you haven't seen Napolean Dynamite then you should, was a cult classic about 10 years ago. Even just find his dance on Youtube, its classic.

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                Love Like Jesus - Part 6 - Relevance

                Posted: 
                Monday, June 17, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus loved through relevance.

                It is interesting to me that Jesus approached each interaction uniquely. He did not have a cookie cutter approach, but interacted with them based on who they were and where they were at. 

                In John 3, we find Jesus interacting with Nicodemus, a teacher within the Jewish faith. Jesus' discussion and interaction was about spiritual concepts. He spoke about being born again, about spiritual birth, about historic Jewish moments like the snake lifted on a pole in the desert, and about light and dark, truth and evil. These were all things that would have resonated with Nicodemus, as a scholar.

                In the very next chapter, John 4, we find Jesus sitting at a well and engaging with a Samaritan women. And his coversation started by asking for water but quickly moved to the thirst in her soul. He didn't speak about theological concepts, but about her own life and needs.

                After Jesus rose from the dead, in one encounter all the disciples except Thomas saw Jesus. Thomas struggled to believe and so at a later date when Jesus reappeared, he dealt directly with the elephant in the room. He doesn't tell Thomas off for his struggle, but invites him to experience what he needed to have confidence.

                In our journey, we can have confidence that Jesus is still relevant and approaches us in a way that will best connect with us.

                He asks us, in our world, to reflect that relevance too. He asks us to approach each person with love and appreciate that they are unique. Evangelism tools can be helpful, personality tests can help us understand better, good leadership and management skills have their place, but the most helpful is a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that helps us interact with people exactly where they are at.

                As people who are called to love like Jesus, relevance has to be part of how we interact with people, and part of how we show his love.

                 

                See previous blogs in this series:

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                Expectations and Boundaries

                Posted: 
                Saturday, June 8, 2019

                Road through forest

                Photo by Pranam Gurung on Unsplash

                 

                Just as cars operate more successfully when they stay on the road, leaders and teams operate more efficiently when they have clear expectations and boundaries, and stay within them. One of the most important things to do as a leader with a team is to make sure that we clearly communicate our expectations and boundaries to our teams, and then hold them accountable to it. It can also be one of the hardest things to do, especially the accountability part.

                Leadership is a high calling, at whatever level you find yourself. It is a position of influence, and as such it requires that we hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard. The issue arises when there are unspoken boundaries and expectations. So if you are the primary leader, it is your responsibility to clearly define your expectations and communicate them to your team.

                It is also important to link your expectations and boundaries to the bigger picture and to give the "why". If you expect your team to be friendly, welcoming and remember student's names, then let them know that it is because every young person matters to God, and so they matter to us and how we treat them reflects God's love to them. If there are things you don't want them to do then let them know why.

                When I talk about boundaries, I am talking about areas that we want leaders to avoid. And when I talk about expectations, I am talking about things to live up to.

                 

                Boundaries

                It is not my place to tell you what boundaries to have in place, that is a conversation to be had with your senior pastor as well as some work in researching what scripture says about leadership. It also can be contextual to those you are working with and the culture you are in. I find it can help to engage with our teams to get their input before finalising them as well. Some scriptures to consider:

                • 1 Timothy 3:1-13
                • 2 Timothy 2:1-13
                • Titus 1:5-9
                • Acts 6:1-6
                • Exodus 18:21-22

                 

                Expectations

                What do you want your team to do? What standards do you want them to rise to? What behaviours do you want to see happening? What culture are you trying to build and how is the team going to contribute to that culture? What is the vision and mission of your church and group, and how can the leaders on your team play their part to see that vision move forward?

                Set the bar and encourage your leaders to stretch into it, and then watch them rise.

                 

                Where to from here

                Once you have researched, worked on and finalized the expectations and boundaries, it is time to communicate it to the team and get them on board. If you can do this before they become part of the team, as part of the introduction, then they know right from the start what they are getting into.

                From there, it is time to monitor yourself and the team to make sure you are all working towards the ideal. We all know there are going to be hiccups and disappointments, as well as successes. It is important to address the hiccups and disappointments with grace and love, especially when it is your own. It is equally important to celebrate the successes.

                 

                When you need to stand a leader down

                Unfortunately, there are times when leaders consistently fail to meet the requirements that we have put in place. It is never easy in those moments but it is crucial for everyone that after repeated conversations when grace is extended but boundaries are restated, that we have the hard conversation.

                The best way that I have heard it explained when talking to your team is using the simple image below. 

                parallel lines The lines are the boundaries of leadership. Leadership exists between the lines. You can live anywhere between the lines and be considered as eligible for leadership. If you choose to live outside the lines, then we still love you but you are choosing to not be a leader. Living outside the lines means you are not eligible for leadership. If the expectations and boundaries have been communicated, then it is up to your team member if they choose to be eligible to be a leader or not. It is our job to set and communicate the standards, and then hold our team accountable to them.

                 

                 

                Frustration is most commonly caused by unmet expectations, and most unmet expectations are first uncommunicated expectations. I encourage you to go through the process of setting and communicating your expectations, monitoring them, celebrating successes and addressing issues. It creates a healthier team and a healthier ministry when we are all working from the same page.

                We hope this is been helpful. If there is anything in this that you have questions about or would like to discuss, please contact me - bruce@youthmin.org.nz

                Guard Your Tongue

                Posted: 
                Thursday, June 6, 2019

                Proverbs 21:23

                DYM Podcast Network

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, June 5, 2019

                Download Youth Ministry Podcast Network Logo

                Podcasting is fairly popular again and there is a group of podcasts that are under the banner of Download Youth Ministry (DYM), very simply called the DYM Podcast Network. They have a range of topics and you can subscribe to all of them with one click or you can pick and choose the podcasts that you like or that are most useful to you.

                The podcasts include:

                • DYM Podcast - which has been running for more than 10 years and answers youth ministry questions
                • Youth Ministry Hacks - discussion around life and practical tips to help do ministry better
                • What it is. What it means - a look at pop culture and what it means in ministry
                • 15 Minutes with Frank - Frank talks about what he is doing and some thoughts on youth ministry (usually longer than 15 mins)
                • My Third Decade - a youth ministry veteran talks about longevity in ministry
                • YM Lab - general tips and things that the presenters are trying
                • The Morning After Ministry Show - a caffeine fueled look back at the week that was
                • Mentor Me - interviews with the leading voices in American youth ministry
                • Parent Tips - about 10 minutes of help and hope for parents of teens, share with the parents in your ministry and become a hero
                • YW's Guide to Video Games - a show about video games

                 

                We hope these are a source of encouragement, perspective and resource to help you as you lead and love young people.

                Let us know of any youth ministry podcasts that you are listening to that might help others.

                 

                To subscribe to podcasts you can use a number of options, on your PC you can download iTunes (or whatever replaces it shortly). On your phones you can search podcast apps. If you need any help with that, just let us know.

                Blog tags: 

                Ministry Fails - Greg Stier

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, June 4, 2019

                My Top 10 Ministry Fails (both funny and serious)
                Posted by Greg Stier on Feb 27, 2017 9:27:19 AM - First posted on Greg Stier's Blog

                1.  Preaching with a large price tag dangling from my new suit. My co-pastor slipped me a note informing me of my gaffe mid-sermon but by then everyone knew that I was an idiot!

                2.  Planting and pastoring a church as well as starting and leading a non-profit organization (Dare 2 Share) without prayer as a major emphasis (This has since been corrected by the way!)

                3.  Twenty plus years ago I had a meltdown in the middle of a Bible study because of an argument I got into with my wife over me being gone so much (literally and emotionally.) Everyone thought it was a skit until I fell into the fetal position in the middle of the Bible study circle and wept for 30 minutes. Awkward. But God turned awkward into awesome because it saved my marriage and allowed us to work through our issues, surrounded and suppported by a loving church! 

                4.  When I used to be a pastor I did a dramatic reading of Psalm 150 one Sunday morning. I finished the passage with a booming, unintentional, "Let everything that has BREASTS praise the Lord!" And all God's children said, "WHAAAT?"

                5.  Ten years ago we expanded our ministry focus at Dare 2 Share into four major areas: equipping teens to know, live, share and own their faith. The problem was this, instead of having just one bull's eye, teen-to-teen evangelism, we were getting distracted by other priorities. We went from a laser focus to a lightbulb. For a a short time we lost our purely evangelistic edge. Eventually we learned from our ministry fail and now are all about one thing, "Energizing the Church to Mobilize youth to Gospelize their world!"

                6.  I said this about my co-pastor when preaching  on "cracks in our armor" on the battlefield of ministry, "Rick and I have seen each other's cracks." Everyone laughed and I didn't know why so I said, "I'm serious!" And they laughed again. Someone explained it to me after the service.

                7.  Leading without listening. 

                8.  Making unrealistic goals that are not prayed through, thought through and fought through. I do feel like I'm improving in this area thanks to our ministry President Debbie Bresina.

                9.  Accidentally shooting a crowd of teenagers at one of our old conferences with a riot dispersement gun. This happened more than twenty years ago. I was told it shot blanks and I was using it as an illustration. We dismissed for a break as all of us were wheezing and coughing. This illustration backfired on me both literally and figuratively!

                10.  Speaking the truth (good at) in love (struggle with.)

                And here's a bonus one. I used to preach with suspenders on (in the late 80's and early 90's it was a thing.) I bought some cool new wool pants, wore them, washed them and dried them on high heat (a no-no becuase wool shrinks!) The next Sunday morning I put on my cool wool preaching pants. I didn't notice they had shrunk and had technically gone to the "high water" level. Then I put on the suspenders and cranked them to high. It looked like I was wearing black, wool capris and a suit jacket. Sadly, I didn't notice. The congregation did. Afterward, as I was shaking hands with the people on the way out, one of our members took my hand and said, "Good sermon. Has anyone talked to you about your pants?"

                Yes, I have even more. But I'll have to save those for another blog post.

                What are some of your ministry fails? Whatever they are let's all keep failing forward together!

                 

                Greg Stier, CEO and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries. On his blog he shares personal experiences about life, ministry, and how they are mobilizing teenagers across America to share their faith. He would love to connect with you. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or join a move of God at Dare 2 Share.

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                Love Like Jesus - Part 5 - Forgiveness

                Posted: 
                Monday, June 3, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus loved with his forgiveness.

                Jesus modelled forgiveness in his interactions with friends and persecuters.

                When Jesus was crucified, and in the hours prior, he was totally abandoned by those who he had just spent 3 years pouring into, all except John. Even Peter who had declared he would die for Jesus, had denied him and run off. After Jesus was resurrected, he sought out Peter, he cooked him a meal and then in a conversation he restored relationship. Peter did the offending, but Jesus restored the relationship. He loved Peter enough to reach out with forgiveness. There was a conversation about it, but it was a restorative one.

                Even when he was on the cross, Jesus forgave those who nailed him and tortured him. When he said "forgive them", I'm sure it covered the full scope, from Herod & Pontius Pilate to the Sanhedrin, from the disciples to the crowd. Even in the midst of his own pain and suffering, he loved them enough to forgive.

                That is so challenging, so confronting. I know I have been through circumstances that have challenged my abilities to forgive. I am usually committed to working through my issues to get to the point of a conversation and forgiveness, but for the biggest one that I can think of it took me 6 months to be able to sit in the room for civil conversation. There was no way forgiveness was being offered in the moment, not by me.

                As people who are called to love like Jesus, forgiveness has to be part of how we interact with people.

                 

                See previous blogs in this series:

                Blog tags: 

                Love Like Jesus - Part 4 - Vulnerability

                Posted: 
                Monday, May 27, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus loved with vulnerability.

                He made himself vulnerable.

                By becoming a human he put himself into a position where he was vulnerable to temptation and sin. We see this vulnerability to temptation and sin when Jesus was in the wilderness after fasting 40 days, when Satan came to him and tested him. He had the temptation to fulfill his physical appetites in an illegitimate way. He had the temptation to reassure himself in regards to his position. He had the temptation to gain authority but do it in a way that dishonoured God. In the Garden of Gethsemane he had the temptation to walk away from his purpose.

                On top of that, he made himself vulnerable to the disciples. He knew that for God's kingdom to come and to spread through the world, that he had to entrust it to others, who would go further afield than he was called to go in his earthly ministry. He made himself vulnerable when he asked them who they said he was. He made himself vulnerable in John 6:67 when he shared a difficult teaching that turned many of the crowd away and then turned to his disciples and asked if they would be leaving as well.  He poured all he had into these 12 men, knowing that they would have to continue the work when he ascended back to heaven, and one of them betrayed him.

                Vulnerability is an attribute of love, because it is the opening of our heart and life to others.

                I heard it described that if someone is stuck in a hole in the ground then pity is walking past and feeling sorry for the person in the pit. Sympathy is lying on the edge of the pit and commiserating with the person. Empathy is getting into the pit with the person. That is making yourself vulnerable, to feel what someone else is feeling.

                Choose to let love be expressed in vulnerability. It is risky but rewarding.

                 

                See previous blogs in this series:

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                Calvin & Hobbs Snow Cartoons

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, May 21, 2019

                It is not quite winter here in NZ and only a few places will experience the snow but these cartoons always make me chuckle, and makes me think about some of the youth that I have led over the years. Hope you enjoy.

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                 

                God Wants To Use Your Insecurity

                Posted: 
                Monday, May 20, 2019

                I always enjoy Steven Furtick's preaching but this video hit me between the eyes the other week and lifted my soul to remember that it is about Jesus and not about me and my perceived failings.

                God is working through imperfect people in the world today, and that means us.

                 

                RAMS Forms for Youth Ministry

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, May 1, 2019

                It is not sexy, but doing our best to comply with the laws of our land is a good witness as well as one that will help avoid any legal issues, which helps us stay in ministry in the longer term. Things like RAMS forms help us think through the risks of what we are planning. Please hear me, I think fun is a key component of youth ministry. If we are boring then we will be considered irrelevant by the majority of those who we are trying to reach, but what we do need to do is think through our plans so that the fun activities we planned that had some risks, do not become remembered for when the risk overtook the fun.

                Good thinking around risks can help us plan properly so that the fun is the memory, not the harm or tragedy. We will never eliminate risk in life and definitely not in youth ministry, but there is a difference between risk and carelessness.

                 

                So what is a RAMS form?

                RAMS stands for Risk Assessment and Management Strategies. It is a document that outlines the event you are running, the risks associated with the event/activity and what thinking and actions you have around these risks. It is a document that should be in partnership with your church's Health and Safety manual and policies. I am not an expert or a legal advisor on this, but have done some work on it for my local church. You do not necessarily need to complete a RAMS form for every event. If your activity is repeated then you can use one RAMS form to cover that, just make sure that if you observe a new risk that needs to be in the form, that you amend the document. They should be reviewed at minimum annually to ensure they are still accurate.

                 

                Who needs to do RAMS forms?

                RAMS forms along with your church's Health and Safety manual should also be part of your leadership induction for new leaders and volunteers. Health and Safety should also be part of your regular meetings as well, as it is everyone's responsibility to keep each other safe.

                The person responsible for the event should have an understanding of the document for each event. All leaders should have an understanding of the steps to take if there was an emergency or issue.

                 

                How do I use your form?

                The form can be downloaded as an editable word document here - RAM-TEMPLATE.docx

                The top section is a summary of the event and a checklist of things to consider. Some will be NA (not applicable), like a life-saving if you are not doing an activity with swimming. I would suggest not just putting a yes, no or NA into this section, but details. So for First Aid Kit: you could put "In youth leader's vehicle" or "In church kitchen cupboard".

                Below that is some aspects to consider as you think through your event, your youth and your environment, and then a summary of the steps.

                Then there is a list of fairly common hazards and risks. In the columns for Eliminated, Isolated or Minimised you put an X into the appropriate column. If it is not applicable to your event then I suggest you delete it. If you identified a risk but managed to eliminate it then note that and what you did to eliminate the risk. To be honest, almost all the risks you have on your form will be minimised. There is some example text in the columns for Actions, Policies and Monitoring, but you need to personalize this for your circumstances.

                 

                Where can I get help?

                If you need help with RAMS or your church's Health and Safety policies then I am happy to be a resource to help, but also suggest you connect with the InterChurch Bureau or your denominational head office. I am sure WorkSafe NZ will also be happy to help although probably better set up for work places than churches and youth groups.

                 

                Like I said, it is not the most glamourous topic, and there are other legal responsibilities to consider, and other aspects of Health and Safety like hazard registers and incident reports, but it is a start towards building a youth ministry that I believe is set up to make an impact over the long term. Trust and credibility is lost if we don't properly manage the risks within our youth ministries.

                God bless you as you serve.

                 

                Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

                How Not To Do Leadership

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, April 30, 2019

                This guy tickles my funny bone. Check out the video and see some of the demotivational posters you can buy on his website - Despair, Inc

                Blog tags: 

                Love Like Jesus - Part 3 - Prophetically

                Posted: 
                Monday, April 29, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus loved prophetically.

                Jesus looked past what the disciples were doing and who they were in the moment, to see and draw out their potential. Just look at Peter the brash fisherman or Levi the tax collector.

                Peter started off as Simon, a fisherman in Galilee. If you read some of the stories about Simon, you see he has the tendency to be passionate and impulsive, the kind of guy who speaks first and may or may not think later. And yet Jesus called him to follow, and during that journey Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter. Peter means rock or stone. And this guy who was a bit of a hot head, basically stepped into a leadership role on the day of Pentecost and became a significant man in church history. Jesus saw the potential and loved Simon enough to draw that potential out of him, drawing him to become Peter.

                Levi was a tax collector. This was one of the most despised jobs as he took people's money to pay for an oppressing regime to continue oppressing them. But more than that, the tax collector made their living from their take, and so if they could gouge the people to feather their own nest if they wanted to. We don't know if Levi was unscrupulous or "honourable" in his actions, but Jesus saw in him something greater than a tax collector.

                Personally, we have had the challenge and privilege of becoming foster parents. For the last 4.5 months we have had a 5 and a 6 year old girl living with us. They have just moved into the care of another family, but we had all of the expected behavioral challenges you would expect from children who have been in the system for most of their lives; who have lived in a number of homes; who are trying to figure out if this new home is safe; and who are trying to figure out where they fit. We weren't perfect but there was one night when getting them to sleep was exceptionally challenging, Nadine had tried and needed to step aside for a break, I stepped into the room to try and do what I could do to bring calm. I got some progress but Nadine stepped back in and started speaking to the girls about how they were special, that they had a purpose, and she got them to repeat back that they were special, that God loved them etc. It felt and is possible that these types of truths had not been spoken over them before.

                We were not their long-term home, but I think some seeds were prophetically planted in their hearts, because we chose in that moment not to respond to the behaviours but to speak to the potential and plant their truth.

                What about us, are we prophetically speaking into people and circumstances? In our ministry roles? In our work places? In our homes?

                Are we raising the level of the people around us by speaking truth and life?

                Jesus showed his love by looking past what was on the outside and bringing a prophetic future into people's lives. He continues to do it to this day. I know I would not be who I am without him speaking prophetically into my heart regularly. Acknowledging my struggles, failures and weaknesses, but always lifting my perspective to his kingdom, his calling and his sufficiency.

                Being prophetic can be is as easy as finding someone and speak life to them. My challenge is that we would ask God to help us look beyond the behaviours of those around us and begin speaking prophetically over them.

                 

                See previous blogs in this series:

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                Some Thoughts on Delegation

                Posted: 
                Friday, April 26, 2019

                Meeting around a table

                Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

                 

                In Exodus 18 we see Moses get a lesson in delegation and developing a team. His father-in-law saw that he alone was sitting as judge over the issues that the people were facing. Every issue was coming through him and he was risking wearing himself out and frustrating the people he was leading.

                Jethro's advice to him was to find good people and give them responsibility over the people according to their capacity. And only escalate issues to Moses that are greater than they can handle. Moses wisely followed the advice. Wisely because it was good advice that was helpful all around. And wisely because Jethro was his father-in-law, and it is always wise to keep the in-laws happy.

                If you are the point person within a youth ministry, then you are often the vision carrier for the ministry. Depending on your church structure and personal leadership style, there is a level of ownership and "control" that you exercise over the youth ministry. That ownership brings with it a sense of personal responsibility that can mean that we hold quite tightly to the details of our programs and events. While it is important that you know the vision, values, culture and environment that you want to achieve, you also need to invite others into the picture and release them to serve in their way.

                A number of years ago we were running a Sunday night youth church once a month. Pre-service we had set up a couple of spaces with a video game room, basketball hoop, pamper room. With the complexity of the set up we needed a team and so I delegated various roles. One role was for the management of the pamper room. I gave them their space, the parameters of what we wanted and then left it to them to manage and just let me know if there was anything they needed. I would check in to make sure they had what they needed etc but they owned that area. They got foot spas, nail care stuff, moved some comfortable into the room and put it back after, I think they even had some music playing. They achieved a much greater level than I ever could with everything else that I had going on.

                When it comes to delegating, a couple of tips are below

                 

                Communicate clearly

                Make sure you clearly communicate the vision, values, expectations and boundaries. Part of this may include having them repeat these back to you in their own words to make sure they have understood. Make sure they also know the extent of their authority, where they have freedom and when they need to communicate or get permission prior to acting. Ensure they know what they can expect from you as well, in terms of support and resource.

                They need to know what you need from them and when. Things like updates, reports or budgets and their deadlines. Let them know milestones and deadlines if working on specific events or projects.

                Unmet expectations is the greatest source of frustration for both leaders and those they lead. We can not expect those we lead to meet expectations that we have not communicated and they have not agreed to.

                 

                Lead people, manage processes

                People are individuals who deserve respect and dignity. Some leaders think that those who "work for them" are their assets to manage however they like, using them to achieve whatever their latest goal is. This type of leadership leads to high turn over in people. As Christian leader's, Jesus is our example. Jesus had focus on his purpose but never treated those he led as pawns to be positioned.

                Processes and assets can be managed and manipulated to best serve our aims, but people are to be shepherded and led in love.

                 

                Trust people but be aware of signs

                Most of the time people will rise to the level of our expectations, eventually. But as mentioned in the previous point, they may need some shepherding to get there. So as a leader, delegation is a trust exercise where we partner with people, and over time more trust is built. But at the same time, stay aware of the state of the people you are leading. Sometimes people's priorities shift temporarily like in moments where a family crisis is in process or study pressure is on, and we need to stay aware to try and alleviate that pressure from them. Sometimes people's priorities shift permanently and they may stay serving but their heart has moved on. Sometimes they have issues that are conflicting with their effective service i.e. sin, insecurity, unredeemed ambitions etc.

                The one thing I have learned is to trust the Holy Spirit in me. He often leads me to make decisions that in the moment may not make sense but are the best overall.

                 

                Let them fail and learn

                We often forget that our rise in leadership is through our struggles and failings, not despite them. When we make the road of leadership and service too easy, we rob people of the strength and blessing that comes when we struggle through something difficult.

                I am reminded of the illustration of the butterfly leaving the chrysalis. In the illustration, the person observing the butterfly struggle to get out of the chrysalis takes pity on it or grows impatient and helps pull the chrysalis open to release the butterfly. The issue was that the very struggle it was having was designed to push fluids out to the wings, and with no struggle, the butterfly never became able to fly.

                Don't make things artificially difficult, but don't always rescue and save people from mistakes and failures. Help them learn and grow through them.

                 

                Allow for individuality

                Not everyone will complete a task exactly how you would do it. Sure you may have done this many times and believe that your way is efficient and effective, but that is because you built your way around your strengths and weaknesses, and your understanding. Allow those you delegate responsibilities to, to express their individuality. I believe that 80/20 principle works here. 80% of the task is likely to be the same as you would do it, and 20% will probably reflect the person's individuality and God shape. So don't force people to do things your way, if the job is getting done and it does not conflict with your vision, values or culture then it will probably be ok.

                 

                We are not meant to do this alone. The Bible uses examples of armies, families and the parts of the human body to illustrate how the Church is to function. All those examples, when operating in a healthy way, means we rely on others, just as they rely on us. It won't always go well, but in the long run it is always better to learn to delegate well.

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                You Are Anointed

                Posted: 
                Thursday, April 25, 2019

                Isaiah 61:1 - The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me

                Background Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

                DYM University Suicide Prevention Resource

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, April 24, 2019

                DYM Suicide Prevention

                I have appreciated the work of Doug Fields and those he has around him for many years. From books, websites, podcasts, DVDs, other resources etc, and one of their current resources is DYM University. DYM University is a paid resource to help train youth leaders and their teams but they have made a couple of important sessions free. So I encourage you check out their Suicide Detection and Prevention video.

                Mental health is such an important issue and we can always work to resource ourselves to better care for young people by understanding these issues.

                God bless you as you continue to serve God's kingdom in the lives of young people.

                Funny Easter Meme

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, April 23, 2019

                Hope this was true for your Easter

                Blog tags: 

                Love Like Jesus - Part 2 - Serve

                Posted: 
                Monday, April 22, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus came as a servant. He came to serve, not be served

                 

                Matthew 20:28 (NIV)

                28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

                 

                If you are a youth leader, there is a reasonable chance that you know what it is to serve. Many youth leaders that I know, including myself, have served in multiple ways. We are often creative, or tech savvy, or good communicators, good leaders etc which means our involvement in our local church is often more than just our department.

                There are two things I want to encourage you with today.

                1. Don't get jaded in your serving. Learn boundaries, how to say no, how to delegate and raise up others who can also serve, but never lose your heart to serve. Don't ever let anything be too small for you. I understand that as a leader you should primarily do what only you can do and allow others to do what they can do, but the example Jesus set for us is service. Even in the hours leading up to his arrest Jesus knelt on the floor and cleaned the feet of his disciples. Being an example in serving was so important that Jesus prioritised it in his final moments with his disciples.

                2. Don't get so caught up in your own serving that you forget that Jesus loves you, that he served us and continues to serve us. His example continues and his love is available to us even in these moments. We can sometimes get so busy doing and giving that we can forget to be, and to receive for ourselves.

                 

                Take a moment right now to thank Jesus for his example and his constant love. Ask him to help you to reflect his heart of service and to sustain you as you lead, serve and give your life for his purposes.

                 

                See previous blogs in this series:

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                Funny Facebook Page - Holderness Family

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, April 16, 2019

                Holderness Family

                I always enjoy creative expressions and music parodies, and this family does some classics, as well as some Nailed It/Failed It type videos.

                Check out this compilation of the Holderness Family Music Videos and feel free to checkout some of their other posts.

                Happy watching.

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                Love Like Jesus - Part 1 - Humility

                Posted: 
                Monday, April 15, 2019

                Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

                John 13:34-35 - A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

                If we are to love like Jesus, then we need to understand and accept how Christ has loved us first. And once we understand and accept that love, we can reflect that love in our relationships and world. I believe Jesus came in a spirit of humility. He came down from heaven and became flesh - he did not sit above and aloof but humbled himself to come as a man.

                 

                Philippians 2:5-8 New International Version (NIV)

                In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

                Who, being in very nature God,
                    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
                rather, he made himself nothing
                    by taking the very nature of a servant,
                    being made in human likeness.
                And being found in appearance as a man,
                    he humbled himself
                    by becoming obedient to death—
                        even death on a cross!

                 

                If we want to show love, then we need to approach people and interactions with humility.

                I was reminded of a YouTube video called Lonely Homeless Man. The homeless man, Mark, obviously needed money and food, but his greater yearning was for company, for someone to acknowledge him as a fellow human being, as someone worth having a conversation with.

                When we think about others, do we do so with humility, seeking to understand and express God's love? Or do we sometimes look with fear, or disgust, or ignorance, or selfishly worried more about ourselves.

                If we are to be known for our love, then we need the humility of Jesus, who did not seek title but to understand, love and serve.

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                Pause For The Peace

                Posted: 
                Friday, April 5, 2019

                Photo by Sunyu on Unsplash

                My Journey for Peace In Life and Leadership

                At a youth conference many years ago, one of the speakers was Mark Gorman, and the main thrust of his talk was the importance of the peace of God when making decisions. At the time I remember laughing about his illustration that involved learning how to wiggle his ears. The parallel was that wiggling his ears is like peace with God. He couldn't teach you how to wiggle your ears but once you learnt it, you can always go back to it, and he couldn't effectively describe or lead you to peace with God but once you have felt it you always know how it feels.

                For those who might wonder if they know the peace of God, his example was the salvation prayer. At the moment when you prayed, accepted forgiveness and started your relationship with God there is a peace that comes, because you are now at peace with God. I think it is a fair example and for me was something I could grasp and relate to.

                His outworking of the principle was that if you are not sure if a decision is the right one, then take a step towards it and if you lose the peace, then take a step back.

                This principle of peace with God has been a part of most major decisions for many years, and many smaller decisions. When deciding between University and Bible College after High School I took a step towards university and lost the peace, so went to Bible College. We just celebrated our 14th anniversary, but when we were just friends I took a step towards the possibility of our relationship being more and the peace remained, and so I continued to move in that direction. When considering whether to remain at the church we were serving and leading in, I took a step towards staying for at least another year and lost the peace, so we went through the process of transition.

                Those were some of the more major decisions, but even things like writing a sermon, I would often take a step in a certain direction and it would not sit right with me. Other leadership and ministry decisions have been more intuitive but based on the same principle, that if I lose the peace then take a step back from that direction.

                 

                Why Pause For The Peace

                Life will push us to be busier, people will want us to make decisions quicker, fear can cause us to rush a decision or freeze in case it is wrong, our past experiences will cause us to have default reactions in certain scenarios. When we pause and make sure we have the peace, then we are making room for the Holy Spirit to interact with us and our decisions. The Holy Spirit is our Guide and Counsellor, he has been sent to lead us into all truth, and we need to maintain senstivity to him and his leading. Effectiveness and influence are not going to increase because you read the latest book or blog, or from the latest podcast or conference. It comes from leading out of an active relationship with God, allowing him to lead and guide you.

                Don't get me wrong, I read books, I read blogs, I listen to podcasts, I watch videos, I go to conferences and some of them have influenced me for the better. The problem is that sometimes they have negatively influenced me, when I have heard and acted without the pause. When we put the pause into the process, we let the good idea that worked in someone else's arena be sifted and washed, assessed and if there is merit for us then the Holy Spirit can help us find it and apply it.

                 

                Pausing In Our Leadership

                For us to implement this type of system in our lives, I believe we need to:

                • create the space to sit and allow decisions to percolate for a time
                • put a deadline on the decision because indecision is a decision, and indecision breeds frustration and stagnation
                • try things, but with an open heart, hand and mind - if we step towards it and lose the peace then we need to be humble enough to acknowledge that it was not the right decision

                 

                I sincerely hope this is of some assistance as you lead yourself, your team and your ministry. If you have any comments or would like to add anything, please put them below. 
                If this has been helpful, then please share this content.

                Love & Pray

                Posted: 
                Thursday, April 4, 2019

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                Resource - The Source for Youth Ministry

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, April 3, 2019

                It doesn't take much to jump on Google and search the internet for resources but it can be hit and miss, so I thought I would share a resource that I have used for years and still use. The website is The Source For Youth Ministry

                The main thing that I use this for is their games section. They have broken the games into categories such as big room, outside, up-front, messy etc that can make the search for the right game for your needs easier. More than that the website has loads of other resources that can help in youth ministry from leadership to culture, resources for parents to logistical docs to help set stuff up.

                I really encourage you to have a look. If there is a resource that you want to recommend then feel free to comment on it below.

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                Funny Procrastination Video

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, April 2, 2019

                If you are anything like me then you might have to deal with procrastination sometimes. Ok, I have to deal with it all the time.

                Anyway, there is a very funny TED Talk about it that I thought you might enjoy.

                 

                Get Into The Arena

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, April 2, 2019

                "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
                Franklin D Roosevelt

                 


                Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

                 

                So often in youth ministry we face criticism and it can come from many directions. From those we report to, from those we serve beside, from those we lead, from youth and parents, and even from ourselves. As leaders we make decisions regularly and that always sets us up to face criticism, but we do it for a reason.

                I had the privilege of sharing on a recent panel where we were asked how as leaders we can still have vision, hope and faith when bad things happen in our lives? And also, how do you leaders give up so much and sacrifice for Jesus? My answer came down to a mixture of calling and love. Knowing that I am called has sustained me through many difficult moments and kept me pressing on as a leader/minister. And the love that God has shown me and has put in me for others sustains me as well. I have the usual doubts and questions, attitude issues and adjustments and continue to need God's grace and mercy, but He sustains me.

                Don't be sidetracked by the critic, external or internal. Stay in the arena until God says your time is done. Whether your most recent experience has been a resounding win, an epic fail, or somewhere in between, please press in to God and dare greatly for His name and His kingdom's sake.

                Goal Setting

                Posted: 
                Thursday, January 3, 2019

                There are thousands of articles, books, podcasts about goal setting, and multiple ways to go about it. And at this time of year I am sure the visitors to each of these resources spikes. Of course the attrition rate between those who set goals and those who maintain the habits and disciplines to achieve them is very high. I, myself, am one of those who tries to set and achieve goals but with limited success, and there are many reasons for that that will likely fill a later blog post.

                But in all my years, the most impactful message that I encountered around new years was one by Andy Stanley called A New You Resolution. Essentially the message it gives is that it is always more important to decide who we want to be before we decide what we want to do. All too often we set goals without considering who we are and what the important people in our lives will say about us at our funeral.

                Take for example this blog and the overall endeavour of YouthMin NZ. My ego wants some sort of fame and renown, which may or may not come and is difficult to measure, but my spirit and soul says that if the youth leaders that I have the privilege of interacting with and serving were at my funeral, I would want them to say that I didn't just help them be better youth workers but I cared about them personally and helped them to be better people and Christians.

                So as you look ahead to the new year, I encourage you to listen to the message by Andy Stanley and then go on the very important journey of deciding who you want to be, so you can lead and minister and do from a far better platform.

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                Guard Your Heart

                Posted: 
                Wednesday, January 2, 2019

                Proverbs 4:23 says "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."

                While I understand the sentiment and totally agree that from your heart emanates your life, I am always conflicted because ministry and leadership intrinsically requires us to open up our hearts to people. And let's be honest, if we have been around people for any length of time then we know that people will eventually disappoint us. So how does vulnerability to people and guarding our heart marry up.

                Is it the thick skin / soft heart philosophy?
                The issue with this philosophy is that the thick skin tends to only work against those people or things that we have relegated to the "outside". We can live one step removed from critics, keep disappointment at bay through rationalizing and learning from our mistakes. But what happens when the critics are close to us?

                In my experience, if you are in ministry or leadership then it is unavoidable that we will face disappointment and discouragement in various forms and at various levels. Below are a couple of things I have learned.

                Go to God
                Psalms calls God a refuge and strong tower. He, more than any other, knows the pain of disappointment and can also give us a more complete perspective. We sometimes get caught up in our own pain and disappointment, and need him to reset us.

                Know your north
                What I mean by that is to set and know your values, and then live your life according to them. Those values will be challenged and over time you may find yourself drifting from them, and so you need to process the issues and reset back to your "true north" values.

                When Proverbs talks about guarding your heart, I don't think it means that we keep people away and never take a risk, I think it means that we guard the godly values we live by, and don't let people or circumstance move us.

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                Start Climbing Your Mountain

                Posted: 
                Tuesday, January 1, 2019

                My 7 year old son wrote on a piece of paper "Start climbing your mountain". I don't know where he got the phrase but that piece of paper sat on my desk for a number of days, and I was challenged by it.

                We all have personal or organisational mountains that we face, but the only way to overcome the mountain is to start climbing it. Looking at it, talking about it, creating strategies and plans, having meetings about it will only have limited benefit, because at some point you actually have to start climbing the mountain.

                As a self-confessed procrastinator, I can be an expert at looking at all of the options but never taking action, and so year after year the same ideas and projects surface, and year after year they are discussed and reviewed, but rarely acted on.

                So my challenge to myself and to you, is to start climbing your mountain.
                Find one area of your life that has a mountain, and don't just look, discuss and plan, but take action.

                Some areas to start you thinking:

                • Relationships & Family
                • Finances
                • Health & Fitness
                • Business
                • Personal development
                • Ministry & Leadership
                • Spiritual

                I would love to know what mountain you are starting to climb. I would love to pray for you and if I have any resources or connections to help you on your journey then I will happily share it with you.

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