francis-chan-preaching

Me too :)

There seems to be a strand of ministry leaders who are obsessed with becoming great “communicators.”  In fact the language of how we even talk about this strange thing we do for 20-45 minute once a week is called.  It used to be called preaching, some call it teaching, or sharing, but everyone in the industry seems to now refer to it as “communicating.”

And for those who want to become excellent communicators, there are few more famous that Francis Chan.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to preach like him?  Wouldn’t you like to know what the trick is, what the structure is, what ever “it” is so that you can communicate with the same power, effectiveness, and maybe even fame? :)

Well, I do, and so I have entered on a quest to understand why Francis, and others, (Insert your communicator of choice) are so pickin’ effective.  What has been challenging is that every amazing communicator, presenter, famous Christian I have listened to all seem to have a different slant, a different structure, a different approach to connecting with their audience.  It turns out that the simple task of copying structure, or stories, or illustrations is not going to cut it if you want to become a powerful and effective communicator.

Over the last year as I have begun to listen to some of my favorite “communicators” with this question, I have slowly, but surely, begun to see a through line in each of these, very different speakers.

If you would like to preach like Francis Chan you simply need to do these two things:

1) Believe what you are saying.  This seems like it would be a now brainer.  As pastors we are convinced of the Love of God and the Grace of Jesus.  We believe, I mean, come on, we have given our entire lives in service of the Gospel.  We believe it!!  My question for you is, to reconsider that question.  Do you really believe what you are saying?

So often we communicate “truth” but that is an intellectual exercise divorced from the way that that truth has actually impacted and shaped our own lives.  Believing in our head will simply not cut it when trying to become an excellent communicator.  Francis believes with all of who he is what he is saying.  He daily is trying to put into practice what he teaches and he is willing to share his journey and struggle with his audience.  His heart actually breaks for the things he says should break our hearts.  His messages are fully internalized!

Go back and listen to or reflect on your last couple of messages.  I know you don’t want to, but really listen.  Do you really believe what you are talking about, or are you just going through the Christian motions?  A good way to tell is by simply asking one more question; How is / has whatever you are speaking on actually impacted and transformed you?  (And why was that not part of your message?)

2)  Say something that matters to your audience.  For many speakers and communicators, they get lost in their task and forget the entire reason they have a microphone.  The stance from many youth workers, and might I say, many preachers, is that they have something to say.  They have something the audience needs to hear!

Maybe there was a day when the simple fact of you being a pastor meant that people cared what you had to say and were willing to wrestle with whatever you had to say simply because of your position.  But that day has come and gone (if it was even ever here in the first place)  When our stance is that of expert, or even as teacher, we have immediately lost our audience.

The best communicators consider their audience, they have a stance of wanting to serve and offer something of worth to them.  They are not trying to get anything from  them.  They don’t try to impress them or leverage who they are to prove that you should listen to them.  They are servants who long to give a gift to their audiences.  What a totally different stance.

Think about how different your communication style would be if you took you out of the center and started with your love for the audience.  If you longed to be a blessing to them, to consider them, their needs, their issues, their concerns, and decided to be helpful to them.  For many preachers this seems like heresy.  You should proclaim the word of God!!  Yes, but as a love offering, not with a bullhorn.

Communicating to an audience is a distinct honor, and rare in our cultural context.  If you want to preach, teach, “communicate” more effectively and become more like Francis Chan, or whoever your preacher of choice is, then simply make sure you have 1) internalized your message, believe what you are saying.  And 2) make sure you are saying something that actually matters to your audience.  

And may God be gracious to us teachers so that we don’t let our ego and pride blind our offerings.  May be simply be humble servants sharing the love and grace of Jesus Christ as it transforms us in a way where our audience can actually hear it and embrace it!

The fruit of Social Media

October 20, 2014 — 3 Comments

 

figs on a tree

I am not going to lie, I love me some Facebook.  And it turns out loving Facebook works well, because only old people are on it now.  Where there was one Facebook, there is now Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and the lowest form of social networking, YikYak.  The longer I work with students the more I am seeing the lasting ramifications of social networking overtaking actual human interaction, and what I see is startling.

Like all things we invest our time and effort into, there will be fruit.  If we eat right and exercise, we will be more fit.  If we practice the guitar or the keytar, you will be able to be a rock star, or at least a studio musician.  If you are in the habit of sharing life and being vulnerable with people, you will develop deep friendships, and if you actually spend time in reflective prayer, the depth of your faith and intimacy with God will deepen.  These are facts.

For the amount of time our students, as well as everyone in the inter web, including you and me, there are bound to be consequences.  We reap what we sow, and all of this investment is reaping some pretty awful fruit.  I am sure that for as many people as would try to make a list of some of the fruit that comes from this investment in Social Media, there would be as many different lists.  But since this is my blog, I thought I would throw out my two cents.  And I would love to know yours.

As I see it, these are the three main fruits of a life invested in Social Media:

1) Passivity:  Life is not longer lived, but rather observed.  The students I work with are paralyzed to actually take risks and commit to activities for the fear of missing out on other activities.  They actually think they are caring for the world and helping the poor because they “like” something and they are superstars if they actually repost it.   Life can not be lived behind a computer screen.  Life is meant to be lived interacting with people, interacting with your surroundings in your context, and I would even say, meant to be lived outside.  Being so connected to Social Media, to our phones, to our news feed, we end up being totally unproductive, enjoying the exploits and adventures of others rather than having adventures of our own.

2) Cruelty:  It has been this way since the original IRC chats from the early 90’s.  What we are willing to say via text, tweet, chat, whatever is always more cruel then any face to face interaction.  What is even worse is when small groups of friends use their time together, not having adventures, exploring the world around them, but rather simply reading through news feeds, judging the people as they scroll.  This is not fundamentally different then the chat experiences of the past, except that, now most interaction is done through social media, and less and less done through actual face to face contact.  And this means that the actual rhythm of how we talk, interact, and view the world is one of judgement and cruelty.

3) Idolatry:  Students, and might I even add, myself, are addicted to Social Media.  It is not simply what we do to connect with others, it isn’t how we get our news, and it isn’t just a tool to communicate our thoughts.  It is an idol that we worship.  It is an addiction that can not be mastered.  Watching students try at all cost to find ways on line while we travel internationally is like watching an addict hankering for a fix.  Social Media is a god to many people.  For us old enough to remember life before, we can see how this idol is simply a poor echo of the deeper friendship and relationships that can be had with true time and effort.  But for our students, this shallow version of interaction is all they know, and worse, it is their God.  They worship this idol, they tune the rhythms of their life around this idol, and will do whatever it takes to serve it.  To the detriment of their real relationships, and even their relationship with God.

Where do we go from here?

If we can’t beat them, join them doesn’t seem to be working.  Is there another way in which we can help our students balance their social media lives?  Or is that like saying cars have ruined community and there is no going back?   What is a realistic way forward?  Is this a battle worth fighting?

Man, do I feel old.  What are your thoughts?

 

This article was originally posted on youthworker.com.

It is impossible to walk through a retail store these days and not be overwhelmed with Halloween. Since the beginning of September, aisles of orange and black decorations, bags of candy and costumes have been calling out to my children, building excitement and expectation for their dream holiday. For my kids, Halloween is a simple holiday that involves their two favorite things: candy and dressing up. For Christians, however, Halloween seems to be a bit more complicated.

No matter how you slice it, Halloween has a dark and seedy past. Its history can be traced to a Roman festival that involved worshiping the goddess of fruits and seeds, a pagan festival of the dead or a Celtic festival celebrating the end of summer. This latter part isn’t that bad, but the celebration of the spirit world coming close to the living world is. It’s difficult to encourage recognizing a holiday that has many touch points with the occult. How can Christians get behind a holiday that, at best…OK, there isn’t anything we can get behind in the history of Halloween.
However, as bad as it seems there might be another way we can look at Halloween—and I don’t mean to pretend we are against it publicly while we quietly celebrate it with our friends and family (like a good wine). I think there is a way we can celebrate and even promote Halloween in a way that honors God and might even bring the kingdom of God closer to your neighborhood.

Before you call my supervising pastor and get me fired, humor me for one minute. How many of us Christians have Christmas trees as part of our family tradition and home decoration? If you Google “Christmas Tree Pagan,” you will find there are more than 3,000,000 sites.

A quick view of these sites will afford many stories and traditions in which evergreens were used in worship and celebration as a symbol of life in the midst of death. In ancient Rome and Egypt, there were traditions of tree worship and burning sacred logs. The most worrisome history is that of Odin, a German god who required sacrifices to a sacred Oak tree. Even though the history of the Christmas tree is shady, it has been recast in a Christian light so that by the 18th and 19th centuries, the Christmas tree had become a fully accepted part of the Christmas celebration.

Christians transitioned the Tree of Odin to a tree with some vague inferences to Christianity so that now all is well with decorating a Christmas tree. The goal was to take a cultural norm with pagan symbols and use it to tell the Christian story, similar to what the apostle Paul did when he used culture to proclaim truth (Acts 17:22-23). In a similar way, that is what we need to do with Halloween; but simply transitioning Halloween to a Harvest Festival to make it more tolerable might be a missed opportunity.

If our cultural context had many touch points to spirit and ancestor worship, goddess worship or occult practices, then celebrating Halloween might be a tough sell. However, in the context here—suburban America—Halloween has nothing to do with anything except candy and playing make-believe. The primary people who are concerned about the darker issues are Christians. Because pagan worship has nothing to do with the world in which most Americans live and because Halloween is observed more as a secular holiday with zero spiritual overtones, maybe we could embrace it and use it as a place for Christians to impact their communities.

Halloween actually could be our holiday, a holiday of hospitality. With hospitality being one of the Christian virtues that is fading away, Halloween could be the holiday during which we embrace our neighbors, when we get to break down some of the barriers that have built up between us and those people who live on our street, when we get to be a blessing to them. In a time when we are less likely to be known by people in our own neighborhood and our neighbors are less likely to be known by us, Halloween could be the perfect holiday to rebuild that bridge.

Halloween could be our holiday to love our neighbors as ourselves. It could be the holiday for Christians express the love and grace of God throughout our neighborhoods and communities. If you haven’t celebrated Halloween in a while, here are a couple of ideas to make a holiday with strong Christian overtones:

1) On a normal day, no one from your street comes to your house. Halloween is the one day when the entire neighborhood potentially could come to your door. The one day when your neighbors mill around in street is the one day your lights are off and door is locked. That doesn’t seem quite right. So, be home; turn your lights on; answer the door.

2) If everyone is coming to your house, why not be the house that gets the reputation for best house to visit for trick-or-treating? Instead of the house that gives away raisins or toothbrushes—or even tracts—your house can be known as the house that gives away full-sized Snickers. Three decades later, I can still remember the stingy houses and the very generous houses I visited as a child.

3) As a youth worker, this holiday can even be a blessing to your students. Get your kids off the streets and put them to work by helping you make your house amazing. Have a party for them in your home. While they are there, have them decorate, pass out candy, do card tricks, whatever. Simply be being there, your house transitions into a place of life and celebration of life.

Halloween is the one holiday when your neighborhood actually comes to you. Instead of running away from this holiday, maybe we should embrace it, redeem it, make it our own. What story are you telling to your neighbors when they knock on your door? What are the values you are sharing with them? Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly. Halloween is the perfect time to share this abundant life. How great would it be if your house is the house that celebrates life; if your house was the house the neighbors’ kids couldn’t wait to get to for trick-or-treat?

Let us recapture the value of hospitality and show off this abundant life we have in Christ! King-sized Snickers for everyone!

 

whiteflag

It is pretty difficult to do youth ministry for any length of time and not have some sort of blow up with a parent.  And I have found that no matter how hard I try, every now and then, I find myself at the receiving end of a firing squad.  Most of the time it is from some misunderstanding, but there have also been times when a parent’s rage was deserved.

But no matter who’s at fault, I have found the two silver bullets to de-escalate just about every major conflict between parents and youth workers.  The problem is, youth worker’s aren’t going to like it.

1)  Fall on your sword.  This sounds like retreat and like you are losing some justice issue.  You are not.  You are dealing with minors, with people’s kids, and in some way you have offended, caused anxiety, dread or fear to creep into their hearts because of something you have done.  Their kid, their most prized possession, is simply just one of the many kids in your program.  You have many things to worry about and most of them are seen simply through your lens, not the lens of a parent.

It is ok to admit that you have missed it.  Or missed something.  No parent wants a cowboy running rough shod with their kid.  They want their children to be cared for emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  And when we break this contract, parents want blood.  Instead of getting your pastor or worse, your board to draw your blood.  I have found falling on your sword seems to ease the conflict.  In just about every misunderstanding there is something that is your fault.  Embrace it, own it, and humbly ask for forgiveness.  And then it is over.

2) Engage them through the lens of Christ.  This might sound like a nice bumper sticker, and maybe it is, but there is some solid wisdom here.  Every time we are in conflict, our knee jerk response is to dehumanize our opponents and to belittle them in our head.  They are dumb, stupid, idiots, bad parents, fundies, etc.  You have your names, I have mine, and basically these are just ways to separate yourself from them.  You are in the right, you are fully human deserving of dignity and honor, and they are fools, who deserve the get the smack laid down.

But the truth is that these parents are real people, like you and me.  And when we see them this way, as people who deserve honor and respect then we are much more apt to engage them in a manner that is worthy of our calling.  But even more than respect, what if we were to put on the clothing of Christ and see them the way Jesus sees them.  What if we were to love them them the way Jesus loves them.  The entire meeting would be so different!

It actually works.  A few weeks ago, I had a mom and dad come into my office to express their displeasure with my ministry and its philosophy.  I don’t want to say exactly what is about in case they happen to read this some day, but let’s just say, they were in the wrong, and I was so in the right!  Haha.

I was actually really nervous for the meeting.  We had a true difference of opinion and one where we were throwing around words like conviction and “the Lord says. . . ” which escalate matters and seem to add weight to our conflict.  They were upset and I was going to be outnumbered.  This had all the potentials to end very poorly for me, or worse, for them.  And as we talked, God actually showed up, humbled me, and reveled to me his love and care for these parents.

And no joke, as my heart for them grew to be more in line with Jesus’, as I loved them more and more, I found myself transitioning from an enemy combatant to a pastor, to a shepherd.  This battle was not worth losing their respect, or even relationship.  It was not worth it to sacrifice my ego and hurt potential ministry our church has for their kid, or for them.  Because I was growing in love for them, I was able to hear them and hear their fears and concerns and my entire body language changed to where I could tell, they could tell, that I was engaged with them and wanted to hear them.

The temperature in the entire room cooled down and we left praying for each other and hugging each other.  They felt heard, and I got to keep my job.  And even more so, God knit our hearts closer together through this interaction.  Who knew that humility, love and grace win every time!

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:1)

This April there is an incredible conference for people who are called to children, students, and family ministry.  It is one of the best conferences I have ever been to, and if there is any way for you to get there, you should come.  Registration begins TODAY!!

As you prepare for all the tasks that are on your plate and are caring the heavy burden of ministry this week, I pray that you have a place in your life where you can be inspired and encouraged.  And if you don’t, then maybe this can be that place!  Sign up today and lets get our ORANGE on :)

scope

Writing curriculum is one of the most challenging endeavors a youth worker undertakes.  (I have found that it is hard even writing the word curriculum, mostly because I am a horrible speller.)  As hard as writing curriculum can be, what really makes a curriculum great or awful is its scope and cycle.  And this is where Orange’s XP3 Student ministry curriculum hits it out of the park!

It is often confusing cruising through a website and trying to figure out what is going on, why they do what they do, and how it all fits together. I get that 90% of that confusion is because I don’t pay attention and skim read. So, I really enjoyed sitting down and having the creators of this material, Jeremy Zach and Jared Herd, explain it to me.

These two guys and their team put together some really great material. But what is even more compelling is the values they begin with as they write their curriculum.

Here are a few values that form the foundation of how this curriculum is put together.

  • They understand that student ministry is truly cross cultural missionaries to this unique context. They get that our kids are more familiar with Karma then they are of Sin. Because of this they are going to approach biblical ideas and concepts full of truth, but in a way that can be translated to this culture.
  • No matter how great the script is or the teacher is, they genuinely believe that “the best teaching happens in a circle, not rows.” This approach means that leader training and small group questions are critical for the success and spiritual growth of our students. Because of this understanding, Orange makes sure they do both well.
  • XP stands for experience. Jared reminded us that all of us don’t remember one youth talk, but can all recall the ways God showed up on mission trips, service projects, camps, etc. And it is the XP that makes this curriculum so much more. Instead of simply passing on information, the core of this curriculum is providing opportunities and space for students to actually put it into practice, experience it, and be changed by it.
  • The picture at the top of the post shows how this annual scope and cycle work. “XP3 is designed as a comprehensive student curriculum that helps students experience their faith in three areas: Wonder, Discovery, and Passion. Every series falls under one of these areas, but because these are big concepts, we have identified core insights within each to help explain the focus of the series.”

This is an annual scope and cycle that is biblical, comprehensive, culturally astute, and takes the gospel and the transforming power of Christ seriously.

With that summary, I would like to offer a few thoughts . . .

1) You are not supposed to use everything that is in a curriculum. Youth pastors love being angsty and contrarian. For whatever reason we love looking down our nose at curriculum and scrutinize it throw out all the things that don’t work. What is so great about curriculum, is that chucking what doesn’t work is what you are supposed to do. You are paid to contextualize the material so it is applicable to your group.

2) Don’t be a lone-ranger. There is a large community of XP3 users who are sharing how they are contextualized material in their context. Be a learner, see what others are doing ask questions. This is put together by great people. We often think that curriculum comes down from “the man,” some faceless group of people just trying to take our money. But the truth is that every page is written by godly women and men who want nothing more than for your students to experience and be transformed by the love of Christ. The most amazing thing is that Jeremy is one of the smartest and most accessible people I have met in the Orange system. Any problem or issue, you simply need to call him and he will actually pick up and walk with you through whatever the problem is.

3) If you don’t use XP3 to help shape your scope and cycle to have a balanced and intentional ministry, how do you come up with your scope and cycle? Most curriculum does a good job of this. But if you don’t use any curriculum, how do you make sure you have a balanced curriculum? If you are not planned a year out, then please consider buying a curriculum that works for you and your context, or do the hard work of developing a complete scope and cycle, but it must cover at least 1 year, 2 is better, and 3 is best.

4) When you have a curriculum plan for the entire year you get the privilege of showing that off to parents. This plan builds trust and respect for you and your ministry. And that allows you more and more access to the parents and their children.
There has to be a plan! Use curriculum that does, or come up with it yourself, but must have a plan!,

I am so thankful for XP3 and their amazing staff for continually providing such excellent content that is intentional, thoughtful, and truly helpful. Your hard work raises the bar for us youth workers, and then equips us to get there! I would strongly encourage you to check it out!

If you don’t use XP3 what do you use? If you write your own, would you be willing to share your scope and cycle?

Orange Conference

As you contemplate these questions, also consider being encouraged and equipped this year at the Orange Conference!  Won’t you consider joining me and 6000 of my friends in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family, and will be refreshment for your soul!

What is Orange?

October 6, 2014 — Leave a comment

 

This week starts the beginning of ORANGE WEEK. It is that bi-annual event where those of us invested in the Orange strategy spread out and seek to engage and encourage our peers to develop an intentional strategy of partnership between the church and family.

Throughout the week, I will, along with some of my good friends, be sharing our thoughts and reflections on the strategy and support that Orange provides.  If you use Orange and are looking to connect, lets do that, if you are not an Orange person, then I would love to know how you intentionally leverage the church and family toward greatest impact on students.

I am continually thankful for the resource Orange is for me and for our church.  If you have never used Orange or they are not on your radar, their strategy for connecting the church and the family is head and shoulders above anything else out there.

What do you think of the Orange strategy?  How do you provoke discovery, wonder, and passion in your students?

Orange Conference

As you think about how you will be trained this year and how you will train your staff, why don’t you consider joining me in Atlanta, GA this April for the Orange Conference. This is an entire conference designed to wrestle with the intentional partnership between the church and the family.

If you use something else and/or something better, would you be willing to share.  We as youth workers continually need to be sharpened, so sharpen away.

The power of empathy

October 1, 2014 — Leave a comment

I recently came across this little video on empathy.  I have always sort of had a grasp of the difference between empathy and sympathy.  But after watching this video again, I was convicted by how much of my ministry is characterized by sympathy.  I am other, distant from the death and destruction that so surrounds my students’ lives.  I rarely am willing to climb down into the pit and simply identify with them and be with them.

Thankfully, this is not how God deals with us.  In fact the entire ministry of Jesus was one of empathy.  The incarnation was God’s ultimate expression of empathy.  And thankfully I am reminded that just as God has been empathetic with me and my garbage, I now get to take on the mantle of Jesus Christ and be empathetic with my students.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,[a] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

GTY_expiration_date_tk_130910_16x9_608

I have some bad news.  Your dream of life long student ministry is simply that, a dream.  Whether you like it or not, there is an expiration date for your time serving in student ministry.  But before you freak out, or throw a temper tantrum, take a second to consider this reality.  And if this is actually reality, then this has some really important and potentially life changing implications.

If, in fact, there is an ending to your student ministry career, then what are the things you need to be doing now to prepare for this future?  Great questions.  Here are a couple of ideas:

1)  Go back to school. School is awesome and a degree  opens up so many doors.  While you are following your call to serve Jesus and students, this is a great time to finish up that B.A. or better yet, start working on a Master’s Degree.  And really, any Master’s Degree will do.  Global Leadership, MBA, or the classic M.Div.  Whatever career you do post student ministry, a degree is a must.  So use all that extra time playing video games and blogging, updating your pin board, and go to school.  Even work it into your contract and see if the church or some supporters will help you work out the money side.  The benefits far outweigh the costs, so get after it!

2)  Build bridges. It is so easy to have the “burn the ships” mentality when it comes to student ministry.  You want to be full of passion and be idealistic about life and ministry.  But life is really long, and ministry is really complex.  These two realities need to be taken into consideration when dealing with parents, your supervisor, network connections.  Wherever you go from your current context, you will need the affirmation of those adults in your life to launch you into the next thing.  If you think you are the greatest thing since swiss cheese, you will find that your circle of influence will only get smaller and smaller.  If you are generous with your time and your affection that your sphere of influence will only grow.  And when you are ready to launch into the next thing you will have plenty of connection and options to go wherever God has put on your heart to go.

3)  Build your character and spiritual depth.  Youth ministry is an amazing calling.  I love it.  I have given almost 20 years of my life to it.  It is also really easy to stagnate and to get lazy.  There is only so far a 15 year old can go spiritually.  And in no time at all you will be comfortable with your spiritual expertise and  knowledge.  But that is because you are continually grading it against 15 year olds.  You must continually work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  You must find people in your life who will push you to know Jesus better, to develop and deepen character, and to push you to invest in your spiritual gifts as well as to grow in your competencies.

When you do these three things, you will be always prepared for whatever God has for you in every season of your life.  I am so thankful that our season is to be colleagues in student ministry.  I am so glad that God hasn’t called me into the desert of Small Groups Pastor, or some nonsense like that (yet).  But the day that God calls me into what is next, I want to make sure that I am fully prepared educational, rationally, and spiritually.  And I hope that you are as well!

May God bless you in this season, and may we have a much  larger view of ministry and the Kingdom as to be faithful stewards of the gifts that God has given us so that we can serve Jesus in every season of our lives no matter the context!

This last week I had the honor to preach on the saying yes to God’s promise of an abundant and eternal life.  This is such good news.  But in order to fully embrace this abundant life, we must also pay the true cost of dying to our flesh so that we no longer suffocate the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Blessings!

Happy 75th Birthday

My friend, Ryan Reed, wrote a brilliant post this last week and wanted to share it with you.  Apologetics is an interesting study.  But what is the defense when nobody seems to have questions or even care? Check out this post and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Perhaps instead of defending our faith to a culture that already could careless about it, we need to begin a new conversation.

It is no secret  – or at least it should not be – that American culture has moved past a Christendom mindset into a post-Christian (or some would even argue pre-Christian, depending on the context.) If these words are new you to you, then Google “Christendom” and “Post-Christian” to learn more about it. Several theologians and philosophers have written valuable articles for the church on this topic since the 1970s – nearly 40 years ago!

Essentially, Christendom connotes the perspective that generally-speaking a given culture holds the values and standards of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus in high regard, including specific tenets, morals, and generally held truths.

The terms “Post-Christendom or Post-Christian” allude to cultures that have decidedly moved on from Christianity as its foundation for moralism and truism, even in some instances rejecting Christianity all together.

These terms mostly get used within academic settings, but many Christians have intuitively sensed the shifting tides of culture for the past few decades. I often hear people in my sphere of influence tell me that “it’s harder to believe these days” or “culture seems much more insensitive to what I believe than it used to be” or “our government doesn’t value my beliefs anymore as a Christian.” Each of these phrases point to a post-Christian culture.

Now, this is where apologetics comes into our conversation. As a result of shifting tides of culture, more and more evangelical Christians – who once resided in the majority thought of culture – witnessed power and thought transfer from the locus of Christianity to pluralistic thought, which includes the belief in other religions, worldviews, philosophies, and so forth. These perspectives now dominate our trends of thought in culture. This correlated in an upswing of apologetic study, which is a fancy term for “defending the faith.” Whereas Christians could assume before that society understood and believed in certain presuppositions about Christian faith (everyone has faith, right?), now the dominant thought patters of culture devalued Christian presuppositions for radical inclusion and consideration of all presuppositions.

And perhaps for a season, apologetics and defending the faith against the changing tide of culture warranted a position in the church. But now the tables have turned, which leads me to my question:

Currently, as Christians living and working within communities deeply rooted in pluralistic, amoral, atheistic cultures, how does one defend the faith against a culture who could care less about the core tenets of Jesus Christ? Moreover, given the reduction of Christ-followers in our communities over the last decades, not only have Christians become a minority voice, but in some contexts – much like the Bay Area – they have become a negligible voice. 

Case in point, there are a little more than 11,500 middle and high school attendees who live in Marin County, as recorded by the Lucille Packard Research Fund for Children’s Health. According to the best estimate of youth workers in Marin County, only about 600 students (a generous estimate) – both middle and high school – are plugged into a church. That amounts to 5% of the entire teenage population, which trends with adult attendance, hovering around 10-12%.

These numbers do not represent a minority; they represent negligibility.

I want to propose a new apologetic. What if Christians whose voice represents a negligible presence within a culture first own their new role as such and then shift the conversation from an argument to one of redefinition?

The power of negligibility is such that our voices – albeit with the power of the Holy Spirit behind us – could not even get loud enough together as a chorus to reach the ears of the powerful. Furthermore, no matter how truthful and life-giving our claims, the power of an argument rarely defers to the minority.

But displays of risk, vulnerability, and courage speaks louder and volumes more than an argument against the claims of another.

The kind of apologetic I want to propose takes the element of ‘doubt,’ which so permeates our cultural values and replaces with the ‘courage to believe.’

Any fool can doubt. Any person can simply say, “I disagree,” “I don’t believe you,” or “I think you’re wrong.” Since living in the Bay Area, I’ve heard so many people say to me that they do not believe in God because they believe in science. Any one gregarious enough to do about an hour’s worth of research can see the multiple fallacies in that argument. Plus, generally-speaking, these people believe certain characteristics about God that are not present in the person of Christ. But, they value the objective observations of our natural world and have assumed that prior Christendom values negate those beliefs.

Let’s redefine the conversation.

What if we redefined faith, shared a true image of Christ with our lives, and put our stake in the ground? Doubting is easy. Everyone can doubt and question. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need strong critical thinking skills to doubt. To believe, on the other hand, requires courage, conviction, and a willingness to lay your life on the line for the sake of the cause.

I think our new apologetic for the negligible Christian voice ought to be a celebration of belief, rather than a disputed claim. Let’s stand in the river together and proclaim with our very lives what it means to live with abundant life and peace that transcends all understanding.

I think that gets closer to the life of Jesus than any other kind of apologetic.

QUESTION: Will you join me and stand in the river? 

o-XBOX-PIZZA-HUT-facebook

I love stereotypes.  I know I am not supposed to, but most of the time they are funny because there is a chuck of truth in them.  And as far as youth ministry goes, pizza is the one and only food group.  Pizza is the anchor to our ministry philosophy and model.  While I try so hard to be healthy and provide food options that actually have nutritional value for our students, pizza is still my go to food!  And when not pizza, then Oreo’s and milk.

No matter if you are a health conscious youth ministry or you lean into the way of your forefathers by embracing the Costco $10 extra large pizza, there is something vital to the health of our ministry that is closely linked to providing food for the body and for the soul.

Sharing a meal is a way to share life. 

I think has to do with the way in which God created us.  He made us to be in relationship, to be in intimate relationship.  The way that intimacy is expressed most appropriately throughout all time and all cultures is by sharing table fellowship together.  Even in a suburban, western, where individualism and isolation are king, there is still something intimate about eating a meal together.

In Luke 14, Jesus tells a story about a man who is having a banquet and who invites his friends to celebrate with him.  His friends reject him, and the invitation is then sent out to the weakest and poorest, and there is still room, and the invitation is sent out to the foreigner, until the house is full.  It is God’s heart to be in fellowship with His people.  To host a meal express to those who are invited that they are seen, known, and valued.  They are important enough to pay for and prepare food for.

When we provide food for our students we have an opportunity to express God’s heart for them in a really intimate way.  (Without it even feeling that intimate)  Inviting students to a meal, or sharing a meal before youth group says to a student that you want to be with them, that you value them, that you want to know them.  And every human needs this!

Sharing a meal is an eschatological experience.

One day, we will all experience the fullness of this when Jesus ushers in the fulfillment of His Kingdom!  But until that Day, you and I get to take on the flesh of Jesus, be His actual body, His hands and feet, and usher in part of this experience here on Earth as it will be in Heaven.  We are creating an eschatological experience simply by ordering a $10 pizza from Costco!

For as much as youth ministry stereotypes are funny and often true, let us not forget the nobility of our high calling, and see pizza as not just a simple go to for our youth ministry, but see pizza as the tool we use to express God’s heart of love and mercy towards are students!

May we be the body of Christ and provide an experience where our students are seen, known, and valued by a simple invite to share a meal together.  And may that meal be PIZZA!

blue-door-feet-598005-o90% of your students are going to walk away from Christianity and the Church after High School?

There has been a lot written lately about what is going on with our students and why are they leaving the church in record numbers after they graduate from college.  It seems to me that this is a problem that has been around forever, or at least since I graduated from high school.  (Back when Pearl Jam was King!)

What would it look like if we quit wringing our hands about this awful statistic and accepted this as reality.

Everything I have read says that part of the adolescent journey is separating their identity from their family and faith of origin and develop an independent identity.   This process of individuation is understanding who they are, where they belong, and if they matter.  And these questions can not be done under the thumb of their parents, or their parent’s youth pastor.

So, If 70% to 90% of my students are going to push back from the faith of their childhood during late adolescence, then what is my response going to be?

It seems like blaming the church, youth ministry, the culture, whatever doesn’t move this conversation forward.  Maybe there needs to be a different framing question to move this conversation forward.  Instead of asking, “Why are so many students leaving the church?”  Maybe a better question is, “Why are so few students returning to the church after they become adults?”

If it is a known fact that so many of the students who wander through the doors of my student ministry are going to bail on the church and their faith for part of their adolescent development, then I think my job is to create a ministry that leaves these students with a picture of the church and faith that is worthwhile to come back to when they are ready to be adults.

The question that has been shaping my ministry over the past few years has not been how to make sure kids don’t bail, but rather, are we painting a picture of the christian faith that is worthy of adulthood.    I think the story of the prodigal son is a great starting point for figuring out how to give our students space to rebel and space to return.

May we have the heart of the prodigal’s father

With all my heart, I want to model the heart of the father who loves his students, who longs to do life alongside his students, who will make space for students to bail, who will wait with anticipation on the edge of the property for them to return, and who will welcome them back with open arms and no judgement.

Our students deserve a picture of mature Christian faith that is compelling and complex enough to make it worthwhile for them to someday return to when they are done rebelling and pushing away from their childhood identity.  We can not make our faith smaller and easier to swallow as we lock down our students in fear of rebellion.  Rather we love them extravagantly and give them space to walk their path, the one that Jesus has gone before them as the author, pioneer, and perfecter of their faith!

How would your youth ministry look if you asked a different question?  What would it look like if you were less concerned about them wandering away, and more about making the christian faith a viable option in adulthood?

May we continue to have the heart of the father as we watch with broken-hearts our students wander away, and ever hope for their return.

Secret_Sauce

Me too!!  :)

Over the almost 20 years of doing student ministry, I have had the opportunity of being a part of a lot of student’s lives.  And while I think I am an incredible youth pastor and do incredible ministry, I think there are about 5 or 6 students who are adults and who totally love Jesus where I had the honor of playing a huge role in their spiritual development through middle and high school.

There are many more students who have meandered in and out of my program during their adolescent career who are now adults and who love Jesus.  But when I look at this group of people and ask the question why they “made it” and so many other students simply fell off the rails, the answer is actually pretty simple.

I have found that for the students who are still loving Jesus into adult hood, they share three ingredients in common.  The combination of all three almost guarantees that a student will actually grow up and follow Jesus into adulthood.  2 out of 3 there is still a decent shot, but the stats fall off rather quickly.

So, if you want to know the secret sauce for kids to love Jesus into adult hood, they need to have all three of these ingredients:

1)  Their parents must love Jesus as adults.

This sounds more simple than it really is.  Most parents in and around the church are “religious.”  But passing on religion does not work.  Being good, or valuing good things, even spiritual things is vastly different than having parents who love Jesus, who have been transformed by the Holy Spirit and who understand their identity and value in the Kingdom of God.  Parents who love Jesus model their faith and bring it to life for their kids.  Kids have amazing BS detectors.  The right words will not cut it.  Kids will always take on the values of their parents, not their spoken ones, but their internal ones.  So if you want your kids to love Jesus, then you need to love Jesus.

2) Their parents must stay married.

This doesn’t mean that divorced kids have no shot at loving Jesus into adulthood.  But parents who stay married add stability and structure to a kid’s life that highness their self-esteem and value.  Kids naturally equate God to a gigantic version of their parents.  So if your parents provide little stability, if they can’t be trusted, and add insecurity to their life and world, then God will be the larger version of that, and making the leap to trusting their Heavenly Father with their lives is very difficult.

3)  They must be connected to Christian community.  

Our Christian faith is meant to be lived in community.  I get making your kids show up at youth group seems like a losing battle.  But it is only in a diverse community like church and within youth group, that students can work out their faith, grow in their understanding of God and be confronted with people who are not like them and have to learn to love others the way they love themselves.  Parents alone can not be the only spiritual influence in a child’s life.  The Sticky Faith people say it is 5:1.  5 adults to 1 kid.  And what better place to find 5 other adults who love Jesus and model that for your student.

Thankfully God is gracious:

Thankfully, God is gracious and doesn’t make transferring faith to our kids into something this objective.   The Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of our students and will move freely, partnering with our best efforts, and often despite our broken lives and promises.  This is good news.  But before you simply shrug off these three ingredients because they don’t define your life or your kid, please reflect on this proverbial wisdom.

The overwhelming number of students who love Jesus into adulthood are the students who have been connected to our student ministry.  But I have had tons of students who have been connected to my student ministry at one point or another.  The difference maker for most of these students were the ones who came from intact families combined with parents who genuinely loved Jesus.

May we as parents, volunteers, youth workers strive to be adults who model our love for Jesus to our students, who provide safety and stability and community so that they too many have the best chance possible to love Jesus into adulthood!

shaky foundation

One of my favorite hobbies is talking with other youth workers around the country about our unique and amazing calling.  Over the last few years, I have noticed these conversations begin to shift.  What used to be times sharing our best practices and our best ideas on programs, has become more of laments.  What used to work and kill it, are having little impact.

Our knee jerk reaction is to scrap our programs and figure out the newest, latest and greatest.  But maybe it isn’t our programs that are in need of change, but our foundational assumptions about students, their world view, and where God is actually meeting them in their lives.

It is not the programs that need to change:

Every church, every town, every student ministry has a very unique culture and style in which they do ministry. Some are huge and are like a worship service with hundreds of kids. Some are small group focused, some are on Wednesday nights, some are Sunday mornings only. Some have a strong campus presence, and others can’t get on campus at all. Some are cluster focused, and some have a hodge podge of students. Some focus on worship, others on service, others on disciple making, and others on fun.

This emphases a ministry has doesn’t matter when we are talking about post-Christian anything. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the what form a student ministry takes does not matter in the slightest. I have the exact same form that my youth ministry had when I was a kid in the early 90’s. (Yikes) As I went around to visit other youth ministries on my Sabbatical, I realized there is nothing new under the sun. There are like 4 basic models and everyone falls into one of those models. AND THAT IS OK!

THERE IS NOT A SILVER PROGRAMATIC BULLET!

Unfortunately, this is where we want to go first in all of our conversations. We want want to find the secret sauce. But here is the reality: There isn’t one. The form a student ministry takes does not matter, what matters are the underlying assumptions that inform your ministry. Some of those assumptions inform your form, but most of it will impact your youth ministry language, culture, expectations, and understanding of and communication of salvation, discipleship, and sanctification.

This conversation is motivated solely out of my love for Jesus and for my desire for as many to come to know him as possible. To be like Paul in my missionary endeavor, to be all things to all people, to find the thin places in my cultural context, and find the touch points with the Gospel and to point people to Jesus. This for me, is not an intellectual exercise or a pissing contest. It is recognizing that our culture has changed, and for some of us, the distance between us and the culture that our students live in has fundamentally changed. It is not simply a form or style issue, but a worldview issue. And this change must force us to change.

What does post-Christian even mean?

Owning that our students are fully post-modern, post-Christian, beings is hard to get our head around. We think because they can mimic back some Christian language at our gatherings this conversation doesn’t apply. I think that outside the two hour program we do, no matter where in the United States we find ourselves, every student’s worldview is completely post-modern and post-Christian. Simply stated this means that our students have no understanding of the Christian story and if they do, it has little to no impact on their lives and that they have basically rejected the Judeo-Christian ethics and morals that most adults over 40 take for granted. I have written about this topic several times, and for a little primer you can peruse the articles here:

All this is to say that if we are serious about reaching students we MUST get our head around the fact that their worldview and culture is FUNDAMENTALLY different than ours, and therefore we must do some cross culture contextualization. Here are some of the questions that will help us move the ball forward:

So, as we move forward in discussion, here are some questions I have surrounding this topic.

  • What in the world does post-Christian mean?
  • What is the the core of the Gospel? Is there even a core?
  • What Gospel picture speaks good news to this culture most effectively?
  • Can we own that penal-substitutionary atonement has ZERO cultural touch points with youth culture?
  • What are we to do about that reality?
  • How do we deal with students who are amoral?
  • How do we develop convictions in our students that are Holy Spirit directed rather than us directed?
  • How will we speak about, think about, and reach out to the LGBT community and those who sympathize with them. (Meaning all of our students)
  • Can we or should we move away from behavior modification focused language and talks?
  • How does us / them, in / out, death / life, language make us loose credibility with this culture?
  • How can we embrace dissonance and complexity?
  • If our goal was to make the Christian Faith and Christian Community a viable option for them to embrace in adulthood, how would that change what we do?

Ok, I got a little carried away. These are some of the questions I have, some of the thoughts that inform me, my worldview, and my ministry. The form of my youth ministry is for sure not cutting edge, but I hope and pray that the content of my ministry is getting closer and closer to the sweet spot, the thin place, of my context so that by God’s grace, my students might embrace the love of God, experience salvation, healing, adoption, and live into the grand purpose that God has for their lives! (And that grand purpose has nothing to do with reaching their campus for Christ. Just sayin’ :) )

May we love the LORD our God with all of our heart, all of our soul, and all of our MIND! And may we live life and do ministry in a way that compels our students to do the same.

image

There are so many micro cultures in which to do ministry:

A couple of weeks ago, I met an transfer student to our local seminary, Golden Gate Theological Seminary. Like most of their students, they come from the heart of the Bible Belt and study in the heart of one of the last churched contexts in America.

As we talked, I found myself fascinated with his home context and the joys and struggles he experienced doing student ministry in his home state of Kentucky. As he told me about his church and his ministry, I found myself mesmerized about this foreign world where 80% of the student body has some connection to some local church.

Now, he made it clear to me that of course that is just 80% attendance, not necessarily 80% Christian or disciples. But still 80%!!! Is that crazy? Maybe for you that is the norm, and your biggest angst is working your tail off trying to break past the dualism that is so present in the life of your students. Maybe you are forever disheartened because the larger church in town is so much more appealing and sexy than yours is? Or something else? If that is your context, I would love to understand it and know your joys and failures.

My context could not be more opposite.

My good friend, and one of the best youth workers I know, Ryan Reed, is the faith community representative to our local blue ribbon commission on teen drinking. (Or something like that) And he was sharing some of the figures from his last meeting:

In our little county there are 11,000 middle and high school students.

This is not abnormal. But this prompted the next question, how many of those 11,000 students are connected to a local church. And we racked our brains, identified the major and minor players in student ministry in our area, and we came up with a whopping 300 students. Not in my ministry, 350 in our entire county. YIKES! This means that only 3.1% or so of students are connected in the most basic level to a church. This isn’t committed Christians, or even committed attenders, this is attending once within a month.

This raises the next question, “WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO TO REACH THIS LOST GENERATION IN A TOTALLY LOST CONTEXT?”

Over the next couple of posts, I am going to be wrestling with how we are choosing to work this out. Our values, the gospel story, and our programmatic plan that will hopefully make a small dent, and rescue even a few from the alienation, anxiety, and depression that has marked our students.

I would also love if this was a two way street. This is just my simply musings bases on my limited perspective and world view. I need to be sharpened by you and your context so that we are both strengthened and encouraged to continue to fight the good fight!

Following in the footsteps of the first missionary, the Apostle Paul, we must remember that every context requires wisdom and discernment to find those thin places where the cultural needs meet the good news of Jesus.

May we embrace our context, and lean into the Holy Spirit for guidance as we long for our students to know and love our savior, Jesus.

Let’s get after it this year!

It is Labor Day, and I am hopefully on a boat right now soaking up the last bits of summer before the hectic grind of the school year.  So instead of some earth shattering post, I wanted to simply share a sermon I preached recently with you.  Not because I am an incredible speaker, nor because it is a prophetic word to you or your church.  It is simply a little message of hope and and encouragement to live for Christ in the commonness of our lives!

To keep your attention I share about my son’s poor hygiene, a bit of an overshare about my sex life, all for the purpose of reminding us that Revelations 21 is our final hope, and it is the reality we are to live into today!

Blessings!

bk

 

Everyone Says Numbers Aren’t Important:

Whatever!  Everyone wants to grow their ministry and expand the kingdom of God.  Some times it is true that our egos get in the way and our motives are not entirely pure.  But at the end of the day, most people in student ministry are doing what they do because they love students and their hearts break for them.

Everything about the DNA of a youth worker is wrapped up in walking through life with students helping them connect to Jesus Christ.  At our best moments we want as many kids to come in contact with the saving, redeeming, healing, and transforming work of Jesus Christ.  Practically, this looks like trying to increase the numbers of students that can be impacted.

There Are Plenty of Short Term Options:

For better or worse, in my best moments or my worst, trying to grow numerically is always in the back of my mind.  I have done pretty shameful things to try to boost my numbers.  Some have worked great and others have flopped miserably.  For me, any short term numerical gain always seemed to fade.  There are many reasons for this short term blip.  But the biggest reason is that I simply put a ton of effort into an event or two for the simple attempt to inflate my numbers.

You are probably in a better and more whole place in your walk with God and would never be so petty to try and increase your numbers for personal gain, but often I am not.  Thankfully over the years God has continued to refine me and heal me as he has continued to grow my heart for students.  And as He has done this, my heart to increase the size of our group has never gone away.

With the internet we now have access to thousands of clever ideas to grow our groups.  Assuming our hearts are in the right place and we are striving to connect with more and more students, there are some great tricks, gimmicks, and structures that will allow you to grow your group numerically.

But most of these ideas will work in the short term, unless there is a dramatic change in systems or straight up hand of God, most groups will settle back to their average size.  For me, I have found a sure fire way to grow my youth group for the long haul.  It isn’t with gimmicks, it keeps my ego in check, and it actually cares for the larger church.  My trick to grow our student ministry is to invest heavily in our children’s ministry!

The Best Long Term Strategy is to Invest in Children’s Ministry

There are few things more depressing that working hard all year and to watch God bless your ministry as your numbers grow and kids come to faith, only to watch it all disappear when the seniors graduate and are replaced by a freshman class of 1.  Or when a group of solid 8th graders move up to high school and you welcome in one or two 6th graders.

The future of your student ministry is not found in your good looks or charisma.  While those are important, it is the base of students who come through every year that allow for the critical mass to have a vibrant and healthy ministry.  When these graduates of children’s ministry are already on board with the church and with the ministries of the church, the transition into youth group is a normal and natural one.  When their parents are already locked in then you are golden!

Instead of taking this transition for granted, it will actually serve youth workers well if they see children’s ministry as their farm team and put in some time and effort to help develop these kids and build relationships with their parents.  Whether the children’s ministry is great and exciting or struggling, any investment a youth worker makes in it will come back 10 fold.

5 Easy Ways to Invest in Children’s Ministry as a Youth Worker:

1) Become Friends / Partners with the Children’s Ministry Director:

I have no idea about the church you minister in, but I do know that children’s ministry workers/directors come in all shapes and sizes.  Some are naturally great friends and some will take a movement of God to knit your hearts together.  Thankfully the job of a youth worker is to connect with students, and students are the most difficult demographic to win over.  View your children’s ministry director as a student that must be won over and do it!  This person has more influence than you know and being on their good side will be mutually beneficial.

2) Attempt to Make the Transition as Seemless as Possible:

From birth through elementary school, the children and their parents at your church are used to relating to the church and church workers in a certain way.  Sometimes those are good rhythms and sometimes they are unhealthy.   Now that you and your children’s ministry director are such good friends, you can now partner with them to help the kids who they have poured their heart and soul into for the past 10 years make the transition into your program.  These people are invested and want the transition to succeed, so partner up and do it.

3) Be a Champion of Children’s Ministry

Many youth workers feel under-resourced and under-appreciated so we spend most of our time lobbying and fighting for our own programs, our own budgets, and our own space.  But all that does is entrench our thinking and seeing other ministries as competition.

When youth workers champion children’s ministry and help elevate it as a ministry of high value, the message that gets communicated is that all children are of high value.  Students just happen to be older children.  By loving children’s ministry first, it will actually build good will among the children’s ministry team and soon they will be championing your ministry.  Children’s ministry and student ministry are truly partners in the faith development of children.  By shaping it this way, you have doubled your team and your influence.

4) Have Your Students Help in Children’s Ministry

Students in our ministries need help to see that they are not the center of the universe.  By helping students plug into children’s ministry we have an opportunity to help shape their spiritual formation by putting their life and faith in the context of a church family.  There were people who poured their lives into them, and now they get to pour their lives into others.

On top of the valuable spiritual formation that happens when students help, it also elevates the children’s ministry and adds life and fun.  Children are so impressed and think it is such an honor when the big kids help out. They think they are so cool and many have reflected how they couldn’t wait to be in middle school so they could now help.  This added life improves children’s ministry and paints a picture for parents and the church that children’s ministry is of high value and student ministry isn’t always just a money suck.

5) Help Expose Your Children’s Ministry People to the Larger Children’s Ministry World.

Finally, as youth workers, many of us have had great opportunities for educational, spiritual, and professional development.  There are great conferences out there like Youth SpecialtiesSimply Youth Ministry, and Orange which do an amazing job of inspiring and equipping youth workers.  Think of how much better we do our jobs now that we have some fresh ideas, fresh inspiration, and a break from the headache of our job.  Why should we have all the fun?

In fact, there are opportunities out there for children’s workers, and this year I am ponying up the money to take my entire team.  My team of four exceptional, hardworking women who have faithfully served our church for years have never been to a conference before.  How great will it be when they have their socks knocked off by the music, the speakers and the seminars?  How much better with our ministry be as they become inspired and equipped?

I am sure there are great conferences out there.  The one we are choosing to go to is the Orange Conference in Atlanta in April.  If you register today and tell them, Ben sent you, you will get to for half off!!!  Ok, that isn’t true, but there is early registration prices and scholarships available.

If your heart to increase the numbers of students who are connected to your ministry so that more and more people can experience the love and grace of Jesus Christ, then bribing is a great place to start.  But for long term growth and health, investing in your children’s ministry is a solid strategy.  Hope to see you in ATL!

Have children’s ministry people have the same opportunities.  This year I am taking my children’s ministry team to Atlanta.  My team of part time children’s ministry workers are moms who faithfully serve our children.  They have never been!

Planning a fall calendar, let alone an annual programmatic and curriculum calendar can often be quite overwhelming.  We have a couple of things going against us.  1)  Most youth workers are relationally focused and to spend the  hours planning ahead is a tiresome task.  2)  We all think we are the smartest people we know and don’t really want to share our best ideas or admit that we are out of them.

But if we are all going to continue to grow and thrive in ministry and if we are going to continue to provide the best possible ministry experience for our students then planning must be a part.  I highly recommend putting an annual calendar together by early August complete with program, events, and curriculum.  Then roll that out in a way that works for you and your context.  For us, we roll out calendars 4 times a year.

Here is our fall calendar.  And thanks to the good people at youthmin.org, I was able to impress my families with a clearly communicate programmatic plan that looks really impressive.  (This is last year’s model.  I am old and still can’t keep up, so we are enjoying this template for one more year.)

Anyway, here is what we have on the books for the fall.  I would love to know what you have coming up that you are fired up about!

Have a great fall launch and may God continue to use you to love kids into the Kingdom!

bk

mccyouthfallcalendar2014

lizard-orange

The people over at ORANGE have some great deals in their store this week.  Over the past 3 or 4 years our church and my ministry have been dramatically impacted by the sharp thinking and practical helps of the Orange crew.  They have, hands down, the best comprehensive philosophy for ministry and for leveraging the combined efforts and resources of the church and family so that children and students may come to be life long followers of Jesus.

If you are looking for some new books to read, to be encourage and equipped in your ministry, or just love deals, then check out this new offer:

Buy the Orange Books Digital Library (Kindle editions of Married PeopleMake BelieveCreating a Lead Small CultureLead Small,Leading Change Without Losing ItLeading a Special Needs Ministry, and Playing for Keeps/Losing Your Marbles, and get all of the following:

  • All Orange Conference 2014 breakouts offered in Deals 1–4
  • A three-month trial membership to Weekly (an online subscription to empower your small group leaders and parents)
  • Do for a Few: A Training Event in How to Lead Small (a training event and guide)
  • Playing for Keeps 2.0 (a workshop and training event for small group leaders and parents)
Plus, when you tweet or share on Facebook any of the deals using the hashtag #OrangeBooks, you’ll be entered to win a prize.
Go to OrangeBooks.com to learn more.
Ok, peeps, lets get after it this year!  only a week or so until fall kickoff.  Read, study, dream pray, and then implement!