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Funny Magicians

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

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

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.

 

Knowing Your Team

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

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

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

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

 

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Fruit and Fruitfulness

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

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

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.

Small Groups From Start to Finish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Hillsong Leadership Network

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

I find this hilarious, enjoy.

Righteousness In Its Right Place

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.

 

Just A Phase - A Resource for Parents and Leaders

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

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

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

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: 

Claire Madden - Gen Z Expert

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

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

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

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:

Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

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

I know this shows that I am still immature, but I find this hilarious

Born for Greatness

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

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:

Build A Ministry To Parents In Four Steps

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.

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Deer in the Air Tonight

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

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

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:

Training Needs Analysis

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

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

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.

 

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Funny Tiger Meme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Background Photo by Dustin Scarpitti on Unsplash

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Book - Understanding Sexual Identity

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

We all make mistakes, its always much worse when caught on camera.

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Love Like Jesus - Part 7 - Practical

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

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Sustainable Practices

 

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

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

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

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

DYM Podcast Network

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.

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Ministry Fails - Greg Stier

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

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:

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Love Like Jesus - Part 4 - Vulnerability

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

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

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

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.

 

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How Not To Do Leadership

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

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Love Like Jesus - Part 3 - Prophetically

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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

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

Isaiah 61:1 - The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me

Background Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

DYM University Suicide Prevention Resource

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

Hope this was true for your Easter

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Love Like Jesus - Part 2 - Serve

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

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

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

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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.

Resource - The Source for Youth Ministry

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

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

"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

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

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

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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