Leveraging The Spiritual Spike from Summer Missions

LEVERAGING THE SPIRITUAL SPIKE FROM SUMMER MISSIONS

As our calendars flip toward summer, our planning turns toward our summer missions/convention/camp trips, and in the back of our minds we begin to think about this:  The post-missions trip spiritual spike and fade. The spike is nice and the fade, it seems, is inevitable. Of course, we don’t do missions trips for the spiritual boost it gives our students. Our goal is to help people and share the love of Christ, both in actions and words. But a spiritual boost is a nice windfall and it usually occurs. And it almost always fades.

Does it have to be this way? We’ve all tried to minimize the fade factor, employing different tools and strategies for post-trip follow-up. Some of us have accepted it as inevitable and simply appreciate the brief spiritual boost students enjoyed. There is, however, one tool that guarantees fade-free results and you already have it on your desk, or shelf, or phone.

The Bible.

Perhaps one of the best follow-up actions we can do as youth workers is to connect the enduring, sustaining Word of God with the freshly softened and newly humbled hearts of our students. We are given a special window of spiritual hunger and curiosity after a missions excursion. Let’s leverage that for life-long benefit. But let’s do it with some strategy.

CONSIDER THIS. WE KNOW FOUR THINGS ABOUT MISSIONS EXPERIENCES AND THE SPIRITUAL BOOST THEY CREATE:

1. MISSIONS EXPERIENCES HELP US LIVE OUT JOHN 14:21.

21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (NIV)

The missions experience itself is an opportunity to “keep” (obey) Jesus’ commands, likely through the purpose of the missions experience, whether it be in the form of taking care of the least of these, sharing compassion, or making disciples. Further, we most likely crank up the “having” of Jesus’ commands through increased devotional or quiet time during the experience and in prep for it. This one-two punch leads us to experience the promise Jesus gave in John 14:21: He shows Himself. We see Jesus! It’s why missions experiences are so powerful and a spiritual boost is likely.

2. THIS “SEEING” OF JESUS CREATES A SOFT HEART AND A HUMBLE SPIRIT.

Commitments are made. Stakes are driven down. Accountability is scheduled.

3. COMMITMENTS FADE.

A third thing we know. The commitments fade. The stakes rot. Accountability gets squeezed out of the schedule.

4. YET, THE WORD OF GOD PROMISES LASTING, SUSTAINING IMPACT.

I contend that it doesn’t have to be that way. This, then, brings us to the fourth thing we know: We have a tool at our disposal that promises lasting, sustaining impact. The Word of God.

This is nothing new, but maybe we have all gotten a little stale at being intentional and creative in connecting mission-impacted, soft-hearted students with God’s Word. Let this summer be the summer that changes.

STRATEGIES FOR CONNECTING MISSIONS TO SCRIPTURE

Below are a few strategic ideas for custom-connecting your missions experience with meaningful engagement in the Word of God. As you read these you’ll see a pattern: identifying something specific from your missions experience and connecting it to a parallel in Scripture. We have a unique and small window of opportunity. This process is our hook for effectively fastening a fleeting spiritual boost to the enduring Word of God.

1. CONNECT MISSION THEME WITH BIBLE THEME

Your missions work will likely have an overarching purpose—evangelism, compassion, building, teaching, justice. Plan a post-trip dive into a Bible theme that connects with the purpose of your missions work. Will it be evangelistic in nature? Mine out evangelism passages (instructions, examples, promises). Are you doing a compassion project? Explore the word “compassion” or compassion examples through the gospels. You get the idea.

2. EXPLORE WHY YOU ACCOMPLISHED MUCH BY WORKING TOGETHER

It’s likely that your students will notice, maybe for the first time, how everyone brought a unique set of gifts and talents to the missions experience, enabling your group to accomplish way more than seemed possible. Springboard off their observations into a study of spiritual gifts. Set out to “own” the key spiritual gifts chapters of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 (with a 1 Peter 4:11 kicker). Hone in on the mutual dependence we are to have on each other and our unique giftedness.

3. SEE YOUR MISSIONS TRIP IN SCRIPTURE

After your trip, poll your students with this question: What commands of Jesus did we live out in our missions experience? Or: What traits of God did we experience on our trip? Or: How did we see Jesus? Let each answer serve as a topic to explore in Scripture over the weeks following your trip, one topic per week. You could front load this by asking students to be on the lookout for those things throughout the week.

4. TEACH HOW TO FISH

Utilize newfound spiritual zeal to teach students how to engage in Scripture. Offer a post-trip deeper dive Bible experience (using the above ideas or a Bible book of your students’ choosing) and introduce students to inductive Bible study tools or match each student’s learning style with a Bible study tool, resource, or genre of Bible book to explore.

When God’s Word is described by, well, God’s Word, you see traits like enduring, everlasting, bedrock-solid. It seems God is emphasizing a point. Youth workers are in a unique position to fasten spiritual zeal to the bedrock of God’s Word before the zeal begins to fade. Channeling spiritual zeal into a study of Scripture at a time when students’ curiosity is high is a gift you can give your students that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives.

I’d love to talk specifics on this topic with you. Feel free to drop me a note or comment.


Barry Shafer has been in youth ministry over 25 years and is the author of UNLEASHING GOD’S WORD IN YOUTH MINISTRY. As director of InWord Resources, he has written many small-group Bible studies and teen devotionals. Barry lives in Middletown, Ohio with his wife Jessica, and their two toddlers, Reade and Rachel. You can connect with Barry through EMAIL, HIS WEBSITE, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, the INWORD BLOG or his PERSONAL BLOG.

Toxic Volunteers

TOXIC VOLUNTEERS

By Doug Franklin May 30, 2017

Adult volunteers are so important to our ministry programs. They are our small group leaders, our mentors, our drivers, and our students’ advocates. We need them. They bring us balance. We get wacky ideas sometimes, and it’s nice to have someone talk us (or in some cases, wrestle us) down from the ledge.

A few years ago, I was teaching weekly in a youth ministry. It was fun to get up in front of the students and lay out a biblical message they could apply to their lives. I loved teaching, but one thing was ruining the experience: someone kept talking during my lesson. You’re probably picturing an immature boy. If so, you’re on the right track. But it may surprise you to learn that this was a 40-year-old boy—an adult volunteer. Every week he was talking and making snide comments, all so students would like him. He needed to be the center of attention. I needed him to shut up! When I sat down with him to explain the situation, he was surprised. He didn’t even realize the problem he was causing.

That’s just one of the many types of toxic volunteers who might be damaging your ministry. Chances are, you’ve seen at least one of these damaging volunteers:

Toxic Volunteers

  • The Class Clown. Like the man from my story, these volunteers crave the spotlight. They steal the group’s attention away from where it should be to focus solely on them. In many cases, these adults simply want to earn some relational currency with the students, so they do whatever they can to make students like them. But if you’re taking students into the emotional crux of a lesson, and an immature joke from an adult brings them out of it, you’ll know how damaging this type of volunteer can be.
  • The “No” Man. These volunteers complain about everything you do. Want to start a new initiative? They’ll poke holes in it. Want to teach on a particular topic? They’ll tell you why another is “more biblical.” Want to appoint someone to student leadership? They’ll question your choice, eyebrow raised in condescension. It’s tough to make progress in a ministry when you’re always being pulled one step back by this volunteer.
  • The Hawk. Some volunteers think they are the parents’ eyes and ears in the youth ministry. They circle around your ministry to make sure you don’t mess up, and as soon as you do, they swoop in to tell everyone. Nothing undercuts your ability to minister to students quite like a negative volunteer going behind your back to squawk in the ears of parents and students.

So what do you do when an adult volunteer goes bad? The first thing is to resolve to deal with it. Too often we want to complain to the other volunteers, pastors, or our spouses. Don’t do this. It leads to you talking about the problem and never dealing with it. The faster you confront the issue, the more effective your ministry will be. If you fail to deal with this issue other volunteers will wonder who is leading the youth ministry.

“What do you do when an adult volunteer goes bad? Resolve to deal with it.”

After that, consider using the following steps:

3 Important Steps

Step 1: Be Preemptive
Every problem with volunteers in your ministry starts with unmet expectations. Unless you are clear in your communication, your volunteers will create their own expectations. For example: The volunteer who thinks his job is to be your boss and not a spiritual mentor to students. Most youth workers are so focused on students and logistics that they forget to communicate their expectations to volunteers.

Step 2: Be Consistent 

After communicating your expectations, it is important to consistently uphold them. Be sure volunteers understand the reasons behind what you are doing. Hold yourself and them to a high standard.

Step 3: Be Decisive
When the time comes to take action, don’t hesitate. The longer you wait, the worse things will get. Decide on your course of action and follow through. Your volunteers will appreciate your honesty, and your consistency will convey care to the rest of your staff.

Often the best thing you can do for a difficult volunteer who refuses to change is to fire them. We learn the most important lessons in life from difficult situations. Being a leader requires commitment to your volunteers. Commit yourself to always doing what is best for them and this in turn will be what is best for your team.

Doug Franklin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have a dog that thinks he is their only child. Diesel is a 70-pound Weimaraner  who never leaves their side.

7 Deadly Sins of Student Ministry Volunteers

7 DEADLY SINS OF STUDENT MINISTRY VOLUNTEERS

For student ministries, volunteer engagement is essential.

The days of a student ministry being led by a charismatic leader with adult chaperones is as far behind us as bellbottom jeans.

Every church ministry must be aligned around relational discipleship for the flourishing of the Gospel. Student ministries will fail to develop disciples when the student pastor is the only person investing into the lives of the students. When we fail to develop disciples, we fail to fulfill the Great Commission.

Leaders are the key to student ministry discipleship. You can say goodbye to discipleship if multiple adult leaders are not connected to students.

That’s a big deal! The discipleship process must involve every adult volunteer. If we want to ensure every adult is on mission we need to identify what is getting in the way of our discipleship efforts.

[Read: 8 DEADLY SINS OF STUDENT PASTORS]

Are you committing any of these deadly sins? Be honest with yourself, then take the necessary steps to get back on track with God’s mission.

7 DEADLY SINS OF STUDENT VOLUNTEERS

1. SHOWING UP LATE AND/OR LEAVING EARLY

Nothing communicates a lack of investment more than showing up late or leaving early. A large portion of discipleship is proximity. Those who are inconsistent at Bible studies and worship gatherings are not developing disciples. The Great Commission doesn’t say “Sit in a youth room to fulfill a student-to-leader ratio.” Jesus commissions every disciple to create disciples.

2. ONLY TALKING WITH THE ADULTS

Why are you volunteering with the student ministry? Is it to invest in students? Great. Investment doesn’t end once you step into the room; that is when investment begins!  Don’t fall into the temptation of sitting in the back of the student room and chatting with the other adult leaders. You are serving to make a Gospel difference in a teenager’s life. So pull up a chair and get to know some students.

3. FAILING TO FOLLOW UP WITH STUDENTS

One hour of communication per week does not sustain a friendship. Discipling students involves following up with students throughout the week. This may look different each week (attending ball games, texting students Bible verses, inviting students to events), but the key is to show up in the life of a student. When you show up outside of “church time” students will begin to see that God cares for them outside of “church time.”

4. NEVER TALKING ABOUT JESUS OR THE BIBLE

Student ministry isn’t all fun and games. Who am I kidding? Student ministry is awesome! The presence of games shouldn’t lead to an absence of Biblical instruction. Each student ministry volunteer has a responsibility to share about the grace, love and goodness of Jesus. Don’t let the student pastor be the only voice the students hear.

5. PRETENDING THAT YOU HAVE FIGURED LIFE OUT

You know that being an adult doesn’t bring clarity to life and an uncanny ability to live perfectly! Be careful not to project a “holier than thou” persona in front of your students. Jesus has saved you, and the students, by grace alone. Sure you have some wisdom to share, but be sure that you are communicating that you still need Jesus.

6. FAILING TO GROW SPIRITUALLY

The number one role of a student ministry volunteer is to be a spiritual leader. It doesn’t matter what area you serve in, you must be growing spiritually. The church’s mission is to create disciples. Only disciples can create disciples. An excellent book to gauge your spiritual health is TEN QUESTIONS TO DIAGNOSE YOUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH by Donald S. Whitney.

7. INVESTING IN THE PROGRAM WHILE NEGLECTING PEOPLE

How many hours have you spent working on the worship set list this week? Or how much time have you spent looking at your small group lesson for Sunday? How about this one: How many hours have you spent encouraging and communicating with students this week? Preparation and study are essentials to be a great leader, but when we drift away from the people and only invest in the program, lesson or worship gathering, our students will leave the church.

NOW WHAT?

After taking an honest look at this list, how many of these sins are you struggling with? Being able to diagnose our current level of engagement will allow us to dive deeper into our discipleship efforts!

What other areas would you add to the list?


Chase Snyder - Headshot - 200x200CHASE SNYDER is the founder of MINISTRYBUBBLE.COM and serves as a Family Pastor in Knoxville, Tenn. He seeks to live a life that glorifies God and disciples others through their day-to-day lives, and his passion is equipping those in the church to seek those who are outside of it. Check out his writing at MINISTRY BUBBLE or connect with him on FACEBOOKTWITTER, or INSTAGRAM.

Leading Through Brokenness

LEADING THROUGH BROKENNESS

I used to drive home each day from work seeing a billboard advertisement for a dentist office. The advertisement claimed that coming to see them for dental work is not like going to the dentist at all.

While I appreciated their desire to lessen the association of pain with regular checkups at the dentist, I see this promise and desire span broader and deeper through many areas of life.

THE IN-BETWEEN PLACES

So often we want to skip out on the hard stuff in life. We know where we want to be – on the other side of it – but we do not want to acknowledge the actual feeling as we proceed through it.

We have run so far away that it is as if we do not know what to do with the in-between places, especially relating to pain but equally relatable to boredom or almost any other emotion labeled uncomfortable or unwanted, including brokenness.

We eagerly saturate the process with distractions and call this good because we think it makes it easier; truthfully, it makes us ignorant and numb.

I know this because I am the one running through the hot coals of brokenness claiming everything is good as my feet sear with pain at each step.

BEAUTY IN THE BROKENNESS

In part, this is because I honestly see the beauty in the brokenness – it is not a lack of sincerity. I can see the working out of my faith in the places that hurt.

But brokenness has sharp edges that should be attended to lest they pierce us when we ignorantly try to run through the pain.

The fact that life is hard does not negate that it is full of goodness. And all of the goodness does not negate the fact that life is hard.

I propose that these are intertwined rather than on opposite ends of a spectrum; both are needed for life to be lived with any amount of sincere joy.

But none of that means it is easy.

Sometimes I need to sit in the space with what is available.

Sometimes what is available is brokenness.

Sometimes what is available is tiredness.

Sometimes that space is full of awkwardness.

Sometimes it is full of anger or hurt.

Sometimes it is just full.

And sometimes it is empty.

And this is OK.

It is OK to sit there. It is OK to just be there.

SITTING AMONGST THE BROKENNESS

I am by no means casting my joys aside. I can sit amongst the brokenness resting in a peace that does not equate to the place. I can honestly speak of joy while also talking about heartache.

The heartache does not drive the joy away; rather, it increases it.CLICK TO TWEETI can sing songs of joy with tears in my eyes. I can wait patiently for the promise of goodness because my hope lies in the Lord and not in circumstances. I can trust that the Lord is good – I CAN EVEN TASTE IT – when situations are full of frustration.

When I stop trying to fill the spaces that are uncomfortable, whether that is anger or silence or brokenness, using habits of Facebook or exercise or friends, I can see not only what is broken but also the goodness. And it is by stopping that I can see the movings of the Lord; his response to my need of him in these places.

That is the goodness. That is the joy. That as I sit in these hard places, I can invite the Lord there with me and rest in him as I sit in the momentary place of difficulty.

LEADING OTHERS IN BROKENESS

But what happens when I am broken and I have to attend to others, to lead them, to comfort them, to speak hope and truth and grace?

How come we believe we are less effective when we are in seasons of brokenness?

It is in the brokenness that we get to glimpse scripture as alive and active when we read that his grace is sufficient and how his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 CORINTHIANS 12:9). Do we believe that? Or do we just like how it sounds?

Looking back, the seasons of brokenness where I am most convinced of my own need of God are the most beautiful of seasons.

Looking around, it is those who speak from brokenness that I want to follow.

There appears to be something sacred about the way people see their need for God to be God and then give him the space to do just that. There is something magnificent when others acknowledge their limitations of brokenness and the body gets to work together to fulfill what the Lord has called us to be and do; to be the church.

We are not less because we are broken. God becomes more real to us and gets glory in our brokenness. And there is no better place from which to lead and to call others into.


 

Andrea Gaston received her Master of Arts in Counseling and spent several years as a professional counselor as well as an adviser position in higher education before becoming involved with women’s ministry, which led to a focus in college ministry. In the Summer of 2016, Andrea moved from Georgia to Iowa to pursue the opportunity of working specifically in college ministry. She practices working out the rambling thoughts in her head through writing in THE MESSY PLACES OF GRACE blog.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS. 

One Thing All Healthy Leaders Do – YouthMinistry.com

One Thing All Healthy Leaders Do

written by Tim And Tasha Levert February 28, 2017

Some who have the role of leader don’t actually have the soul of a leader—that’s a problem, because “everything rises and falls on leadership.” We didn’t make that iconic statement; John Maxwell did. But we believe in it so strongly that it feels like we wrote it! We also believe that an openness to self-evaluation sets good leaders apart from the rest. Leaders hold others accountable; but they must first hold themselves accountable.

WHY do healthy leaders evaluate themselves?

Effective leaders welcome feedback because they understand that healthy things grow. To be as effective as possible for God’s Kingdom, you must be willing to ask yourself tough questions and face the challenging realities that surface because of them—while trusting that Jesus will guide you to the next right step. Asking the right questions takes skill and courage, but the benefits are huge.

WHEN do healthy leaders evaluate themselves?

Self-evaluation is warranted any time you’re tempted to criticize or complain about teenagers, volunteers, or parents. For example:

  • Instead of complaining that teenagers aren’t reading the Bible or volunteering at church work days, perhaps you can ask how you’re doing at discipling young people to value and practice the core Christian disciplines.
  • Instead of complaining that volunteers aren’t connecting well with teenagers, perhaps you can ask how you’re doing at equipping volunteers to be effective youth workers in kids’ lives.
  • Instead of complaining that parents aren’t attending any of your meetings, perhaps you can ask how you can be a more effective resource to parents.

Insecure leaders complain about others, while strong leaders evaluate themselves first and look for ways to create a healthier system.

HOW do healthy leaders evaluate themselves?

Good leaders evaluate everything, even though feedback can feel risky. Here are three questions to ask, as well as some uber-practical examples of how we try to answer them:

  1. How am I connecting with teenagers and helping them grow in their trust in Jesus? The best way to find out information is often the simplest: Ask! Download one of our Student Surveys, and feel free to email Tim if you have specific questions about how to use them. (He loves that stuff!)
  2. How am I connecting with parents and meeting their needs? Recently we wrote about 10 Things Parents Don’t Need From You. You also can download our annual Family Survey to get the creative ideas flowing.
  3. How am I connecting with my team and equipping them to be better youth workers? Check out Students Need Adults and Our 10 Failures of Leading Volunteers for more insights. Plus, here’s a peek into our annual Volunteer Training Schedule.

How open are you to feedback? How can it help you grow as a leader?

Youth Workers and Public Schools… Some Helpful Resources

Over the course of my last 28 years of studying youth culture full-time, one of the best and most helpful exercises I’ve engaged in is taking the time to listen to the hearts, cares, and concerns of public school teachers and administrators. A wonderful by-product has been the realization that youth workers and educators can and must work together, rather than against one another. And rather than wait for “them” to take the first step, we must do all we can to reach out and make connections that are characterized by a spirit of cooperation, rather than one of contention and competition. Why do I know this can happen? Because I’ve seen it. Each and every year, I spend more and more time in public schools training and talking to administers, teachers, counselors, and students.

My experience working with schools has left me with some time-tested wisdom that I think is worth passing on. I’ve learned that there are ways to understand, connect with, build alliances with, and support public school teachers and administrators that each of us can and must implement in our ministries.

One specific strategy is to do all we can  to support those who work in our public schools. Maybe you’re one of those youth workers who knows just how thankless a job –humanly speaking – youth ministry really is. If so, welcome to the world of public education. We can start by thanking those in our community who have chosen to spend several hours a day teaching our kids. Many of them are tired, worn out, and weary from constant criticism and the difficulties of working with kids in a rapidly changing culture. Their job is incredibly challenging. Think about it. . . not only do they have to stay up-to-date on the latest educational developments, but they have to be culturally-savvy as well. The culture of their students is changing at breakneck speed.

Once you’ve thanked them, offer to come alongside with no agenda other than to be an encouragement and support. Assume a Christ-like posture of grace, humility, integrity, excellence, and servanthood. Then offer to help out as a volunteer in the classroom, on the playground, in the lunchroom, or on the sidelines. Over the years, our local school district has eagerly accepted my willingness to help out by using me as a classroom aide, reading helper, field-trip chaperone, recess aide, public address announcer, game-filmer, etc. The relationships built over the years have resulted in give-and-take, with school officials asking me for advice regarding the school’s changing culture and how to respond.

As a youth worker, you are uniquely positioned to do the same, passing on helpful information and resources that will assist educators and parents as they work together to lead kids to become positive and productive members of society both now and in the future. Perhaps you can even serve to provide in-service education for the school staff on a unique aspect of today’s youth culture and student experience. But don’t ever forget: respect the school’s boundaries and don’t abuse the trust you’ve been given.

To get you started on this journey of partnering with and supporting your public school district, we’ve developed some Free downloads that feature information and advice on one of the most pressing matters parents and educators are facing in today’s world: social media and technology. Parents and educators regularly come to CPYU for help in navigating the emergence of life on the digital frontier. It’s for that reason that we began our Digital Kids Initiative, which now features these non-sectarian public school resources. Here’s a list of and links to those resources. . . and be sure to give them a look and pass them on as a way to partner with and support your local educators. . .

A Parents’ Guide to Cyberbullying

Primer on Electronic Addiction

A Parents’ Guide to Sexting

Primer on Social Networking

Texting While Driving Fact Sheet

Text Acronyms

Family Digital Covenant of Conduct

A Message To Youth Ministers Who Are Struggling

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Written by Andy Blanks

I talk to a lot of youth ministers who have been doing youth ministry a long time. 10 or 15 or 20 years. And the more I talk to these youth ministers, the ones who’ve really been in the game a while, the more stories I hear of people who at one time or another were completely disillusioned with youth ministry.

They were worn out, beat up, and frustrated. Over-worked. Under-appreciated. And deflated by the general sense that what they were doing may not matter that much in the lives of many of their students.

But, you know what? Instead of walking away they stuck it out. And here’s the cool thing: In so many of these stories, the individual WANTED to leave. He or she wanted so badly to call it quits but didn’t because he or she didn’t feel like God was giving him or her permission to do so. Through prayer, these folks realized that God had not released them from their call. And so, they stuck it out. They GUTTED it out. Sometimes they struggled for years. But now, these youth workers are 3 and 5 and 10 years removed from their low point, still doing youth ministry. Still impacting lives.

You cannot imagine how common this story is. I hear dozens and dozens of iterations of this each year, story after story of men and women who traveled through the rough times and made it through without giving up. The craziest thing is that for many of these folks their situations didn’t change. But their perspective did.

I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that these youth ministers are my favorite ones. There is a richness and depth to them and their ministries that only comes from persevering through the tough times. They have an amazing perspective on life, faith, and ministry. They are collectively the best youth ministry resource I know of.

Are their youth ministries perfect now? Do they feel fully appreciated? Are all of their kids spiritual giants? I doubt it. And I bet they’re not immune to the occasional period of doubt or frustration.

BUT I THINK THE ONE SECRET THEY’VE LEARNED IS THAT GOD’S TRUE CALL ON THEIR LIFE ISN’T PERFORMANCE, BUT FAITHFULNESS. AND THAT’S A PRETTY AWESOME PLACE TO BE.

So, take encouragement today from their example. If you’re in the midst of a trying season, don’t give up yet. Pray and listen. And don’t make a move until you know it’s God’s will. God may very well be leading you away from youth ministry. But He may also be leading you to suffer through a period of real trial because He has much, much more to teach you. And He knows that the trials are what will strengthen you for a future of powerful, meaningful ministry.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Making Sense of Suffering

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Making Sense of Suffering

Suffering is a part of life.

Mikhail Gorbachev said, “You are born. You Suffer. You Die.” There is so much horrible suffering in this world.  How do we make sense of this? I think it is answered by Christ’s death on the cross…

He Takes Responsibility for Suffering Upon Himself

The Bible calls Jesus a man acquainted with grief. It says, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isa 53:3)

God could have made a universe that provided no free will and no option for evil to enter the universe. He chose to create beings like Lucifer and Adam who had the ability to do evil. Although he does not sin, never has and never will, he took responsibility for sin upon himself.

If anyone says, “This world is sick. Why doesn’t God do something?” You can respond “He has.” God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son…. (John 3:16)

He Enters Our Pain

God has empathy. He feels our pain; he does not feel it  just from heaven; he came here and felt what it was like. He knew what it was to be hungry, tired, thirsty, betrayed by friends and rejected by society. The greatest agony he ever felt was taking all of the sins of humanity into his body.

Are you suffering? Do you know someone who is? Jesus suffers with you and them. The Bible says that although he has this incredible place of authority he still relates to our pain:  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He gets what we are going through.

I had a 2000 pound suspended ceiling fall on me years ago… I felt like I was dying. Two bones in my spine were crushed. It hurt… a lot.  At the same time, I never felt Jesus closer. He comforted me all through my recovery year .

He Rescues Us

There’s a place in Star Wars where Obe Wan Kenobi says that he will become even more powerful in death. He must have borrowed that from Jesus. Jesus overcame our greatest enemy –not Darth Vader but close… it is death. How do you know that you can make it through this life? –Because the one who gives us life is the one who successfully defeated death. He rose from the dead and He delivers us from evil.

Life can be difficult. Many suffer unreasonable inexplicable  pain. Facing pain never gets easy. Thankfully, we don’t have to face this pain alone and sometimes, miraculously, God takes the pain away.

Let ‘em know

Easter is such a great time to help people understand that God has an answer for their pain. It is found by understanding the meaning of the cross and allowing the one who died on it to enter into our suffering..

Ron Powell

ronpowell

Ron Powell is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email ron.powell@vanguardcollege.com

The Need For Rest

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The Need For Rest

the need for rest

So I recently celebrated my 15th year at Hazelwood Christian Church, and as a gift, they gave me a 1-month sabbatical…a time to unplug, rest, recharge, and vacation.  This was an amazing gift, but it made me realize a very important truth…I am BAD at resting.  I know that sounds odd…how can someone be BAD at resting?  What an odd thing to be bad at!

I think we all understand that “unplugging” from youth ministry is difficult.  We are constantly bombarded with social media, text messages, meetings, and a to-do list that never ends.  Honestly, it’s HARD to take a month off, to completely “turn off” youth ministry, and allow yourself to relax.

But the truth is that we in ministry NEED to rest.  We need to find a way to find margin and rest.  The Bible has countless verses that remind us that rest is important.  Psalm 23 describes God as One who “makes us lie down in green pastures.”  Jesus promises to “give us rest,” Psalm 46 reminds us to “be still and know that” He is God.  And even Jesus’ ministry was typified by moments of extremely emotional and “heavy” ministry followed by Him withdrawing to quiet places to pray and recharge.

As I reflect on my sabbatical, there are a few tips I would give about finding rest in ministry.

1.  First, we NEED to take time off.
I get it – leaving is sometimes harder than staying.  Filling all your roles with volunteers is difficult and time-consuming.  But we must find time to rest and recharge.  Think of it like exercise.  I love to run.  I could run 10 miles today, and then wake up and run 10 miles again tomorrow, and the next day, and so on.  But if I continue to work that hard without allowing my body to rest and mend, my performance will suffer, and I will end up sore, bitter, and probably injured.  The same is true of our work in the Kingdom.  We SHOULD work hard – as hard as possible for the Lord.  But we must find time to rest and recharge.  We will be better ministers of the Gospel if we do.

There are awesome benefits that come when we DO take time off.  We are rested and recharged.  Taking time off gives us time to step away and return with a fresh perspective.  Taking time off allows us to take a breather from any frustrations that are currently haunting us.  And taking time off allows the other leaders, staff, student leaders, and church members the chance to step up and fill the roles that you’ve always filled.  All of these are amazing benefits of taking a little time away.

2.  Secondly, we need to find a hobby.
Hobbies are awesome, because they provide us with an opportunity to find a little margin in our days to unplug and just do something we enjoy.  For me, I love CrossFit, running, and design.  These are things I enjoy doing for me, but they are also outlets for me to live out my faith in “non-Christian” venues.  I can just be me, a follower of Jesus, while lifting weights and sweating.  I’m living out my faith, but I’m not “on the clock.”  Hobbies can be a much-needed release valve in a stressful ministry bubble.

3.  Finally, don’t forget your family
The phrase “don’t forget your family” rings true in a lot of ways, but in this particular context, I simply mean that your family needs rest as much as you do.  Most of us in ministry have a job description, or a set of expectations and tasks to fulfill in our ministry role.  Most of our wives and children, however, do not have a job description.  Though the people in your congregation DO have a set of expectations for them, they are “unwritten” and “ever-changing.”  Your family feels pressure just like you, and they need to rest and recharge as well.  Don’t underestimate their need for rest and their need for YOU to be rested, too.

I’m praying that you will find a way to rest and allow God to recharge you.  I wanted to close out with my life verse from Colossians 1:28-29 – “We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to HIS power, which mightily works within me.

Youth Ministry Volunteers Partnering With Parents

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YOUTH MINISTRY VOLUNTEERS PARTNERING WITH PARENTS

By Doug Franklin March 30, 2017

Parents: the most important and influential people in a student’s life.

Youth ministry volunteers: outsiders who demonstrate the same life and spiritual values from a perspective outside of the family system.

Parents are the primary faith influencers, and youth ministry volunteers are the critical third party voice. When working in tandem, parents and volunteers reinforce from all angles how to walk with Christ. They dig deep into a student’s life, model a godly life from various positions, and empower students to carry their ownership of their faith as they walk through the doors of adulthood.

“When working in tandem, parents and volunteers reinforce from all angles how to walk with Christ.”

In order to be effective and transformational, parents and volunteers have to be on the same page and work together. Here are three tips that pave the way to just that:

1. Communication

An open line of communication is one of the most important ingredients in the relationship between volunteers and parents. Parents give more freedom and trust when they are informed about a volunteer’s goals for a student, and volunteers gain confidence when they know they’re mentoring within parents’ guidelines for a student. This doesn’t mean every detail of a student’s life is revealed and discussed at meetings; it just means that there are regular opportunities to check in, share wins, and confront problems or obstacles together.

2. Respect

Parents and volunteers must also have mutual respect for one another. Both parties are making an investment in the spiritual growth of a student, but each party understands different aspects of a student’s life. Parents understand a student’s history better than anyone else, but a volunteer will see and likely understand a student’s life outside of the family context. Because parents know parts of their student’s story that a volunteer cannot know, a volunteer must respect and support parents’ decisions and desires. Parents must also give volunteers the ability to build a relationship that is uniquely different than a parental relationship. It takes a great deal of respect to have two coexisting parties with different roles and responsibilities, but wise parents and volunteers will respect and value the role of the other.

“When parents and volunteers spend time dreaming together and determining goals for a student’s growth and development the outcome is an individualized spiritual development plan for each student.”

3. Shared Mission

Parents and volunteers need each other; neither one is completely effective alone. Having a shared mission unites parents and volunteers, allowing them to work together more successfully. When parents and volunteers spend time dreaming together and determining goals for a student’s growth and development the outcome is an individualized spiritual development plan for each student. Parents drive home foundational truths, and volunteers begin to smooth out the rough edges in a student’s development which parents may struggle to reach. Together parents and volunteers can support one another, encourage one another, and ultimately, challenge students toward growth and consistency.

When a student hears a message only from one place, they are likely to compartmentalize it. So when following Christ is only embraced in the home and at church, it is easy for a student’s faith to become environmental. Having a Christ-like influence outside of the home helps take the “daily grind” mindset out of a student’s faith and allows students to safely process and apply their faith in even more areas of their life. But parents and volunteers must work together. I encourage you to communicate regularly, show value for your respective roles, and get on the same page about your goals for your student.

If you are a volunteer and haven’t checked in lately with your student’s parents, go out to coffee and encourage and pray together for your student. If you are a parent, give your student’s youth ministry volunteer a phone call and check in. You may learn something great about your student you never knew. Together parents and volunteers are a force to be reckoned with!

Doug Franklin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have a dog that thinks he is their only child. Diesel is a 70-pound Weimaraner  who never leaves their side.