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.

To Move or to Wait? – Following God’s Plan

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Written by Andy Blanks, on April 11, 2017

Posted in: Bible Stuff

  • God has a plan for your life. I believe Scripture offers overwhelming support for this statement, both in individual verses and in specific narratives of individuals. Discovering when it the right time to move or to wait is no easy task. Now, we can have some fun theological conversations about how this actually fleshes out in the life of a believer. But I wanted to take a quick moment and offer some insight into one aspect of God’s plan for our lives.

How do we know when to take action and when to wait?

. . . The situation has deteriorated at your Church. You feel God is leading you to make a change. Do you wait for an opportunity? Or do you take a leap?

. . . You have definite thoughts about a new direction for your youth ministry. When is the right time to approach your Church’s leadership?

. . . God has put a desire in your heart to go on the mission field. Or plant a church. But you’re unsure of the timing. How do you know when to make the move?

In the words of the 80’s punk rock band, The Clash, “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” It’s a tough question. The good thing is that we find solid examples on both sides of the equation.

  • When Abraham heard God’s call to sacrifice Isaac, Scripture says Abraham got up early the very next morning and left.
  • David couldn’t wait to get after Goliath. He must have felt God’s leading and moved.
  • The disciples were called and immediately left their livelihoods to follow Christ. In fact, we see an instance where a guy who dragged his feet was rebuked by Christ (Matthew 8:21-22).

Before we assume that an automatic response is demanded of us, there were some instances where waiting on God’s leading is the right alternative.

  • God told Rebekah that His covenantal promise would pass through Jacob, not Esau. Armed with this knowledge, and seeing Isaac in his old age, Rebekah acted on her own initiative to carry out God’s promise, in essence, attempting to force His hand. While God was faithful in keeping His promise, we’ll never know the grief Jacob could have saved himself if he had not gone along with his mom’s plan.
  • David knew at a young age that he was God’s chosen leader of Israel. He had the opportunity to act on God’s promise as he caught Saul in a compromising situation in a cave; Saul was relieving himself and David could have killed him (1 Samuel 24). But David waited on God’s timing to see His promises to fruition.

This idea of waiting on God is prevalent throughout Scripture.

  • Isaiah 64:4 says, “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
  • We see this in Isaiah 40:31 where incredible promises are bestowed on those who “wait” on God. The ESV Study Bible describes this waiting as “Savoring God’s promise by faith until the time of fulfillment.”
  • Psalm 40:1-2 says “I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Here we see David describing how God rewarded his patience.

TO MOVE OR TO WAIT? WHAT DO WE DO WHEN WE FEEL GOD’S CALL? THE TRUTH IS THERE IS NO BLANKET ANSWER THAT WORKS FOR EVERY SITUATION. BUT THERE ARE SOME DEFINITE GUIDELINES . . .

Prayer leads to discernment

Prayer is the language of our relationship with God. When we feel God put something on our hearts, prayer is the proper response. And prayer leads to discernment. Prayer aligns our will with God’s will. Through prayer, God will provide us with the discernment to move or to wait.

God’s will is not a mystery

If you listen to some people talk, you would assume that God’s will for us is some hidden secret that has to be unlocked with a secret code. The problem is that this isn’t how God works. Does God have his own timetable? Absolutely. Does God sometimes choose to not respond to us immediately? Of course. But Scripture is clear: the Church is God’s plan for advancing His mission. And we are the Church. So much of what we seek God’s “leading” for is made plain in Scripture. While God might not answer us on our timetable, He will make His will plain.

God desires to use us

This piggybacks on the previous point, but it’s worth repeating. God desires to use us to do His will on this earth. I personally believe that God honors our desire to be a part of this plan. (Scripture makes this case over and over again.) If we make ourselves available to be used as God wills, with no conditions, He will indeed use us. Part of that will be Him revealing His timetable. I believe when we make ourselves available, God will move us to action or lead us to patiently awaiting His next move.

To move or to wait? Only God can provide the answer, and it will differ with each situation. But you’ll never know unless you are seeking His leading for your life.

Editorial Note: This post was originally published June 2013. It has been completely revamped and refreshed for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

How to Get Teenagers to Stop Doing the “Christian” Life

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How to Get Teenagers to Stop Doing the “Christian” Life

written by Darren Sutton April 12, 2017

Our culture values doing over being. Business cards reveal what we do, not who we are. College applications ask what students have accomplished, not who they’ve become. Even churches and youth groups sometimes unwittingly encourage right actions before faithful hearts.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, for sure. Here are a few ways to recognize the differences…

DO asks: Have you read your Bible today?

BE asks: When you read your Bible, what trait of Jesus do you resonate with most?

DO asks: When is the last time you raised your hands in worship?

BE asks: When was a time you were so captivated by worship that you felt lost in lyrics and emotion? What was that environment like, and how did it influence your response? What was happening inside you at the time, and why?

DO asks: How many service hours have you logged?

BE asks: Who are “the least of these” in your sphere of influence? When you notice them, what do you do, or wish you would do? Is prayer an action or a copout in these situations?

DO says: You know how to behave. Don’t step outside the lines and do something bad.

BE says: Your heart is the wellspring of life and action. When you mess up or fall short, what do you say to yourself? What does Jesus say to you? What would you want him to say?

DO says: Everyone needs a regular quiet time.

>>Students who are attached to Jesus starts with an authentic youth ministry. Join Rick Lawrence and the Beckynator this week as they talk about how to build an authentic youth ministry that values participation not performance. 

BE says: When you pay ridiculous attention to Jesus, every moment becomes your quiet time. He speaks in a myriad of ways, including special, set-aside times for him and everyday, run-of-the-mill times for you. Are you looking for Jesus in all your moments, not just the quiet ones?

Jesus is more intent about who we’re becoming than what we’re doing for him or even how we’re behaving.

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Behaviors and actions are dictated and measured by the unseen forces on the inside. Those compel us to notice Jesus and allow him the space to transform us. If we help teenagers get their actions right before we help them engage their hearts, we create shells—whitewashed tombs—capable of regurgitating “water” from an unclean well, laced with toxins that don’t allow for a very long shelf life.But if we help kids embrace the BE of the Jesus-centered life before they embrace the DO? That builds a pure well whose water is life to those who drink it.

This week we released a new devotions for teens graduating from High School and it’s all about identity. It’s called Destination: Life, Navigating your future with Jesus. It covers “Who does Jesus Say I Am?” Packed with relevant devotions that bring the heart of the issue back to Jesus paired with fun “how to be an adult” tips. Check out the sample devotionals below:

What’s In It For Me?

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What’s In It For Me?

You’ve probably heard this witty comeback at some point in your ministry. Savvy seekers exploring the idea of faith often will not commit whole-heartedly without this question being answered. At the outset, it seems to be just a non-committal hesitation. After all, the last ten years of ministry have been fixated on the mantra, “It’s not about you!” Sometimes we repeat it so often that we dilute its meaning. Further, it is often vocalized in frustration when our projects, procedures or positions are questioned. But in the end, it comes down to buy in. Youth will not commit full-throttle to this faith-gig until they have this question answered. Frankly, I don’t blame them.

When we jest in our gruff superiority, “It’s not about you,” we don’t really mean it’s not about you. Of course your faith it about you. Duh. The beauty of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is that he relates to each of us through our unique perspectives. What we really mean is, “it’s not about only you.” Faith is about all of us working together to reach others.

Faith is about all of us working together to reach others.CLICK TO TWEETIn a similar vein, what if the motives driving students to question the value of faith for their lives doesn’t mean what we think it means? When students demand to know what’s in this Jesus thing for them, I believe they are not exhibiting selfish motives. Instead, they are revealing a set of more elemental questions lurking below the surface. See if any of these alternatives below apply to your students.

WHAT PURPOSE DOES FAITH OFFER ME?

This generation of students craves to change the world, not as spectators but as purposeful…CLICK TO TWEETThis generation of students craves to change the world, not as spectators but as purposeful participants. The personal and national terrors of their childhoods have heightened their awareness that life is short. They are also not naively trusting. Yearning to get into the mud with this down-and-dirty business of changing the world, they demand specifics of that change in advance to guarantee that the time sacrifice is worth it. I believe that reveals much more than selfishness. It illustrates a positive stewardship of time and resources. Most importantly, they desire to understand Jesus’ specific role for them to play in that transformation. If we gave them a label, this generation could be called “street-smart problem-solvers,” in that they believe as Isaiah, and later Jesus, proclaimed:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Answer this question by giving them a powerful purpose and authorizing them to run with it. Ownership of that purpose will galvanize today’s youth into powerful players in the future field of faith.

WHAT VALUE DOES FAITH OFFER ME?

No matter how engaged students are, they are still teenagers. Each young person has a deep, unquenchable need to be worth something. Being valued for who we are is a basic human need. The reality that Jesus created us and loves us just as we are meets that need in a way that well exceeds most student’s expectations.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ, you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. Colossians 2:9-10

When students recognize that faith in Jesus Christ offers them eternal significance—coupled with a completeness that can be applied powerfully in the present– they are more apt to buy in.

WHAT CHALLENGE DOES FAITH OFFER ME?

Today’s students are movers and shakers. They don’t aspire to sit comfortably inside of the church walls, bored and entertained. They yearn to rage against the machine of injustice and evil. They crave an authentic, active and adventurous faith that empowers them to take great risks and results in even greater rewards. You mark my words, many of this generation will be among those standing before Jesus saying,

“Yes, Lord, I saw you in faces of the least of there and I stood with you.” Matthew 25:21.

It is up to us to embolden students to battle against injustice and speak out for the poor. To do so, we must live out adventurous faith ourselves. That is what they are really asking.

It’s not a question of what faith has to offer them; rather, what kind of faith are you as their leader going to model for them?

So the next time a student says, “What’s in it for me?” try to see beneath the teenage bravado to the real questions lurking beneath the surface. Before we respectfully explain the truth of the matter, we must search our hearts. I don’t know about you, but I want to be able to say with fierce authority as one who has experienced such faith, that true faith in Jesus Christ offers you a challenging life, full of purpose, value and adventure!


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SABRENA KLAUSMAN is the author of ZOMBIE CHRISTIAN, THE SACRED UNDEAD and has served more than sixteen years as a pastor’s wife, church planter, and curriculum-writer.