Friday, June 26, 2009

How Offensive Are You?

I once heard a speaker tell a group of pastors that if they weren't offending people then they weren't really preaching the gospel.  

I am happy to respond to this statement with one of my own.  A child coined it back in the 80's on a half hour TV show.  His response to the person who just gave him startling, shocking or insane news was, "whatcha talkin bout?"   This question was usually directed toward, but not limited to his older brother Willis.

I am always amazed at how many Christian leaders I meet that believe the best way to share Jesus with the "lost and broken" is through a judgmental approach of laying out the list of what we can and cannot do (this list usually involves no coffee in the sanctuary).   If these lost and broken people would work on following our list they might someday arrive and be like, or better yet, one of us.

Jesus clearly communicated to all people that in order for us to have a relationship with Him we must love. Love trumps all!

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  1 John 4:7-8

Let's break it down like this; in a Bible quick search you can find the following words and how many times each is mentioned (this may vary depending on translation, NIV was used for the following search):

  • Correct = 5
  • Discipline = 12
  • Rebuke = 33
  • Encourage = 43
  • Teach = 236
  • Love = 258
This tells me that I need to evaluate what my motives, ministry and relationship with Christ is built on.  Is it teaching people the right thing at all cost, using our list of rules that has little room for grace?  Or is it living a Christ filled life, teaching and speaking truth in love and allowing the Holy Spirit to ministry to a person's heart.  We need to continue to remember that we don't change and then come to Jesus.  We come to Jesus just as we are and then our lives begin to change through the love, encouragement, teaching, correcting and discipline of the Holy Spirit and people who care that make up the body of Christ.

We are going to offend people and I am sad to say I have many times.  However, I never want to become comfortable hurting people, especially brothers and sisters in Christ.  I choose to represent my God as a God of love... now where have I heard that before?  That's right, directly from God himself (1 John 4:16)!

"You don't have to be offensive to be on the offensive." 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 14

Plan your ministry calendar at least six months in advance.  Here are a couple ideas to help with the planning your calendar.
  • Check the "general church" calendar to make sure you don't schedule an event that would conflict with another ministry.
  • Invite volunteer leaders and parents to a calendar planning party (have food and have fun).
  • Confirm with vendors and event locations before putting them on the calendar.
  • As difficult as it may be, try to put cost, times and locations on you calendar.  This will make future planning for families much easier.
  • Don't worry about cool images and fancy font; make the information easy to read.
  • Have your calendar proof read by the lead church office manager/secretary, and a volunteer from your ministry to make sure everything looks good.
Remember the saying, "if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail."  Plan your ministry and get the information out to the people in your church and community. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 13

Make sure you have the proper forms and paper work to protect you and your ministry. You also will be able to help a student who is in need of medical attention if you have the correct paper work.

Requiring signed forms from parents/guardians also gives your ministry a "professional" look and will usually help parents know that you care about their child. Take time to have the right forms and you could save yourself a great deal of time and stress.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 12

Find time to pray.  Don't just talk about prayer in your messages to students; really find time to do it.  Get quiet, talk and listen to God.  This is so very important, yet almost every youth pastor and volunteer I talk to admit that they spend to little time conversing with the Savior they represent.  To pray and commune with God Almighty means to better understand what He wants to do through you and more importantly, in you!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tightening The Budget Belt

Recently I started driving differently.  It all started with a special on one of the major networks. They had a "gas specialist" (I thought that was funny too) who instructed a family for one week on how to drive differently to save money on gas, and they did.  When the network checked back for an update three months later, the family actually had an average monthly savings of more than $200.

Some of the tips were simple; when starting stay below 2000 RPM's controlling your starts and stops, put the car in neutral when sitting at a light, don't use the air conditioning when it's not necessary, combine trips, and drive the posted speed limit.  These tips have allowed me to save money on gas and become more responsible in how I drive. I am a better steward of my finances because I have been educated and have a greater understanding of how to save.

The same is true when it comes to our ministry budgets and how we steward them (steward = a person who is appointed to manage or look after another persons property or possessions).  In order to be good stewards of our ministry and budget we need to know our purpose, vision and priorities.  We also need to know where to invest the finances entrusted to us for a maximum impact; this could be for spiritual growth and health, outreach or both.  Just like driving, we can keep some of the following tips in mind to keep our spending in check:
  • Assemble a team of leaders to help determine where and how much to spend.
  • Spending money on an event or ministry doesn't guarantee it will be effective; sometimes the best programs are the cheapest ones.
  • What resources can you share with another ministry in the church?  Are there other churches in your community you could partner with?
  • Stay within your allotted budget.  Financial planners encourage families not to spend more than they bring in; this is a great way to plan for your ministry expenditures as well.
  • Keep spending records and meet with a member of your churches finance committee monthly to keep accountability.
  • When necessary, charge or increase the cost of events that always seem to lose money.  It may also be time to "pull the plug" on some events or programs.  Talk to your volunteer and leadership team before making these decisions.
I found that making changes in the way I drive have caused some people to get frustrated and impatient with me, this is especially true when slowly accelerating at a stop light in the middle of down town Orlando during rush hour. The same is true of any change you make.  Tightening a budget can cause tension and frustrations, be upfront with why and how you plan to implement the change and encourage people to pray for strength in the ministry. Stay the course and follow the plan you create for your ministry budget.  I think you will be amazed at how much money you can save.

Lives are not changed because of the finances we have or the size of our budgets, they are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit who still works in spit of the economy! 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 11

When a parent is upset about something that happened while their student was in your care, don't talk or try to defend yourself and the ministry.  As hard as it may be, keep your mouth shut and listen!  When they are finished "sharing" be honest and direct in addressing their concern.  An apology is a great way to cool tempers, love in action!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 10

Many youth pastors have been accused of mishandling money in their ministries; we don't need anymore added to the list.  Here are a couple tips to keep you out of the "money pit" in your ministry:
  • Have someone else handle the money!
  • Have volunteer leaders be responsible for all cash.
  • When counting cash always make sure there are at least two volunteers.
  • Never let students count or handle money, why put temptation in front of them?
  • Accountability matters, keep great records.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Do You Have It?

I watched as students entered the room looking for something.  It was a crowed area with students and adult volunteers, but many of the students searched as if they were looking for treasure, with purpose and excitement. Each one ended their search at the same spot, the student pastor.  I was surprised at how many students were looking for him, and then I saw… it.  It was something that I had seen before and had even experienced in some of the ministries I had the privilege to pastor.

It is something that eludes many pastors and church leaders, and attempts are continuously made to "get" it.  It is a connection, passion, interest and expression of loving the ministry God calls you to and sharing that love with people. This student pastor had it, and the students knew it.  I saw high-fives, arm hugs, full hugs, small talk, longer conversations, eye contact and much more.  It was exciting to witness.

I have many friends who over the years have confessed to not having it and no desire to get it.  They have a direction, goal and plans to get there… it only slows them down.  They have used student ministry as a "stepping stone" to gain the experience necessary to transition to lead/sr. pastors.  Don't get me wrong, I love it when my friends follow the call of God to lead a church and assume the role of lead pastor.  However, I do not agree with paying dues and "putting in your time" with students.  Many times this hurts a student ministry and undoes much of the good that has taken place.  The pain of student ministry transitions and the lack of consistency in this ministry area make parents and students skeptics. Sorry, this is another blog for another time... moving on. 

Through the years I have had the privilege to speak with many students at conferences, retreats, and camps about their student pastor.  In my opinion (and it doesn't mean much) the majority of the students struggling in church ministries are those that are desperately looking for their student pastor to have it, and they don't.  Students are crying out for someone to love, accept, encourage and engage them.

If you don't have it and you love the ministry you have been called to, don't worry there’s hope.  The hope you have is in the body of Christ and the gifts that God gives each of us.  Begin to surround yourself with people who have the gifts you don't.  Look to them for leadership in the it areas, and do what you can to learn from theml.  

Don't settle on being a good pastor, be a good student pastor!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 9

Please don't underestimate the importance of this one.  Return phone calls and emails A.S.A.P.  Keep a phone journal and track the contacts you make.  This is useful for reports and reference when/if necessary.  Again, this is simple but very important. 
Tip plus: return the calls and emails first that you dread this most, get them out of the way so you can focus on the ministry of the day (some of our best ministry will come from "negative" contacts and how we listen and respond).  Try to never finish your day with negative contacts, this way you don't take home frustrations.

Click on the title for a great phone log link.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I watched as my neighbor down the road was attempting to move a treadmill into a van by himself.  Four different people passed by and watched as he struggled, with no success, to load it.  Eventually it dawned on me to walk over (I’m a little slow).  As I approached, I asked, "can I give you a hand with that" to which he replied, "no thanks, I'm good."  I stood back and continued to watch him as he planned his next move.  After another failed attempt I offered my assistance again.  He stopped, looked me over and asked, "why?"  Without being too proud of how I responded (because this doesn't happen often in my life), I said "you are my neighbor and if I needed help I would want you to offer it to me."  This caught him off guard enough to allow me to help him load the treadmill.  During this short task I learned that he had received help from a neighbor when moving into his home only to be robbed later by the same person.  He shared how he was slow to accept help because of this past incident.

How well do you offer help?  The more important question for those of you in ministry is how well do you accept help?  Many of us wonder what the motives are of those people offering to volunteer in our ministry area and we are often slow to respond to those people who offer assistance.  We remember past incidents where we have been "burned" and the pain from those situations resurface.  We begin to live in fear and rather than trusting God to send His chosen workers for the harvest we turn to our expectations of what a "good" volunteer should look like. By questioning the motives of people, over time we realize our ministry has little to no impact on the Kingdom of Heaven because we have no volunteer support.

I believe God calls us to carefully screen those who minister to our children and students.  I believe that we should pray and actively look for people who can plug-in and make a difference in our ministries.  I believe in having volunteers take a spiritual gift’s assessment and finding a place for them to serve that will allow them to use their gifts.  I believe there are people sitting in your church who are dying to help but don’t know how.  I believe that in order for me to trust people I must first put my trust and ministry in the hands of God and let Him lead.

I don't know where you are at in trusting people, but I do know that real ministry can only be accomplished as we invest in people and then turn them loose to carry the Good News to others.  Ministry by multiplication.

Basic Student Ministry Tip 8

If you haven't used ANIMOTO for making slide shows, you might be wasting your time.  I use Animoto and would recommend it to anyone working with students who is looking to save money and time.  The slide show videos (made from your pictures) are professional and incredibly easy to make.  Don't reinvent the wheel, use tools that are available to you.  Have fun creating!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 7

Using video can "mix it up" and help keep your students attention.  There are many places to purchase videos; Group Publishing, Sermon Spice, Blue Fish and Youth Specialties are just a few examples.  I would encourage you to get a creative team together and make some of your own videos.  The cost to make your own videos is very minimal and you can script them to be specific for your topics.  Above is an example of a video we filmed for our Jonah series, it took less than thirty minutes to film and edit.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

We Still Have Work To Do II

"Read an article from the New York Times about a high school in Georgia, that still has segregated proms. Guess I've been living with my head in the sand, but thought those times were long gone. You know what the sad thing in this was, and I guess not surprising to me, it wasn't the kids that wanted it that way, it was the parents."

Above is a selection from a friend's blog:

It's sad, but very true.  There are at least a dozen or more schools that I am aware of that have the same policies.  What bothers me is that there doesn't seem to be much attention given to these HUGE issues… in the church or media.  Also, how many additional schools/communities have the same policies that we aren't even aware of?

I think what really troubles me is the "us/them" mentality that exists, not just in our communities and schools, but also within the church.  We can't believe that schools and communities would allow such a thing to continue, but if we really look at the church, we are guilty of the same thing only on a MUCH larger scale!  I am talking about the Christian/sinner mentality.  We have our groups and ministries that feel good when we are all "on the same page" but when people come in and don't "play by the rules" we don't like it.  It's easier to be kind, smile and say "hi" to our neighbor rather than really loving, caring for them and inviting them in. 

Who are we to care for?  I believe the simple, yet profound lyrics of a children's song reminds us of who we are to love, reach and minister to; "red and yellow, black and white they are precious in His sight..."  I not only pray we become color blind, but also that we clearly see the eternal impact we are making.  Are we producing or preventing Kingdom growth?

Christians are not just causing hurt feelings and refusing to let someone attend a one-time event (like Prom), but actually impacting lives for eternity!   Mark's blog stated "we still have work to do" and I couldn't agree more, I just think the way should be lead by the church not the PTA!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Great Post By Walt Mueller

Take a look at this very insightful post from the founder of Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and former neighbor of Jon and Kate plus 8.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Basic Student Ministry Tip 6


-  Get into God's Word everyday.
-  Read as many books as you can.
-  Listen to leadership CD's and online messages.
-  Get a mentor.
-  Search online for blogs or sites that will challenge you.
-  Visit other ministries and take notes.
-  Visit other ministries to refresh (leave the note book at home).
-  Look for local and national conferences to attend.
-  Get some good magazine subscriptions (Group and Youth Worker top my list).
-  Connect with peers in your community.

Don't just limit yourself to Christian resources; some very helpful resources to me over the years have been secular leadership books and conferences.