In-take and Create

It’s happened to us all, we sit down to create something for ministry and there’s nothing. We’ve pulled up to Starbucks or closed the door to our study to write another sermon, curriculum or blog deadline (gulp) and we’ve got nothing… I mean nothing. Everyone is looking to you for the next great idea for your upcoming event and you have no idea how you are going to engage your group’s imagination. Or maybe you are at the other end of of the spectrum right now; you finally have the time to take a break and refresh your soul in the Lord, but you’re getting nothing from it. For a month you have looked forward to that free Saturday that you blocked out to spend time with the Lord, but you don’t feel like you got anything from it. The job of a pastor is learning how to consistently and creatively pour out from a place of being filled up by God. We seem to be in a constant fluctuation between taking in and creating. Finding a productive balance that is not completely draining is difficult. For some of us, balance may seem elusive, a myth, like it’s the Yeti of ministry. 
 
I preach/teach a lot in my current role, more than I feel comfortable with but this is my current stage in life. I know, I know, you’re going to link some article about students needing to hear other voices or training up other teachers but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.The reality is that as difficult as it can be at times, it’s been good for me as a young pastor. I’ve learned so much about finding a rhythm, trusting God, and striking a balance between in-take and create that I would not have found otherwise. I wish I could tell you that I learned this truth without messing up and wearing myself down, but it would not be true…I’m a slow learner. Yet God is faithful, and He has used this period of my life tremendously to grow me as a communicator and a creator, but mainly as a follower of Christ. 
 
Whether you know it or not, finding balance is important to your life as a pastor. It’s a question of health. Young ministers coming out of school seem to fall victim to this at an alarming rate. They have spent years building up all these ideas and thoughts, only to exhaust themselves and their ideas six months into ministry. Like a person who has dove (dived, doven, diven?) too deep and is struggling to make it back to the surface, they desperately need air to breathe (refreshment). Often, we hide behind the excuse of being too busy. If you are ministering well, you will live a busy lifestyle. You might need to cut some things out of your life to find balance. Skip the Grey’s Anatomy Netflix marathon this weekend. Get off of Twitter. Stop listening to the podcast. We can not just resign ourselves to being on the razor’s edge of burnout forever. Striking a balance of taking in and creating leads us to a healthier place.
 
In-Take
 
This is the beginning stage of creating anything for God. Do you have grandiose aspirations of being an author some day? Are you tired of singing every one else’s songs? If you have ever wanted to create then you must refresh your soul in the Lord on a daily basis. This is the time we spend with the Lord, thinking on the Lord and learning new things about the Lord (note: this is not sermon preparation). As a minister, you have to spend time with the Lord. It’s probably not a new revelation to you that Jesus retired away to a quiet place to be with God, but it’s still true. Jonathan Edwards used these verses to show that Christians need to wake up early to spend time with God. I will not go this far, but I will tell you that you must allow your personal relationship with Christ to remain a priority if you ever hope to minister effectively. It’s important to realize that we do not spend time with the Lord so we can write an inspiring blog or paint a beautiful painting; we do it to know the Lord. Outside of this, reading books, listening to music, sitting silently, and being around God’s creation are just some of the many ways we can refresh our souls.
 
Create
 
We are all made to create. From the beginning of humankind, we have been called to create. It’s a purpose given to both Adam and Eve. It is a natural outflow from the worship rising within our hearts and a release for us as human beings. God created beauty for us to interact with. It’s not just looking at a beautiful sunset, but it’s writing, drawing, making music, and a hundred other expressions to God. If you do not think you are creative, it simply means you have not found your creative expression. Creativity has nothing to do with talent. You are not creating for others, you are creating for God. We express the new life we have in Christ by being creative. In a recent keynote, Tim Cook of Apple (yes that Apple) said that “designing something requires focus.” This is true of creativity… it will require focus and time. Let’s be people that create for the glory of God. 
 
These two worlds have to be balanced. If we are simply taking in we will quickly become spiritual gluttons. If we are creating too much then we will always be running on empty. Here’s a few things I’ve observed:
 
1. There’s beauty and immense value in both of these working together.
 
2. Habitual unconfessed sin disrupts these processes. 
 
3. You have to make time for both. The Enemy will tell you that you don’t have time, but this is a way of keeping you unhealthy. 
4. You will need to plan small moments of refreshment and larger moments of refreshment. You cannot hope to run to the point of exhaustion and just plan a day away and hope to get refreshed. It needs to be a regular part of your life, even if it’s 10 minutes of quiet a day. (car ride home!)
5. Schedules and discipline is vital for both of these. Do you have a set time for both of these? If you don’t, it’s the first step towards health and balance.
6. We all have different ways that we do both of these.
What are some of the ways you in-take and create? 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BrandonWeir.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brandon Weir is the Student Pastor at The Fellowship Round Rock near Austin, TX. What does Brandon love? “I love my wife Jules, my dog Ranger, Texas Tech, being outdoors, the Texas Rangers, camping, hiking, reading, Torchy’s Tacos and I love me some Jesus.”

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It’s a Boy

It’s 5 am. My wife is resting, and my new born son is laying in the crib next to my fold out hospital bed/couch.

Life. Is. Good.
God. Is. Good.

My ministry just got a little bit bigger.

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My prayer is that Benjamin will be a man of God, passionate about seeing others know, love, and worship Jesus. My prayer is that I will father him in a way that stirs his affections for Christ.

Life. Is. Good.
God. Is. Good.

Love Jesus More Than Your Ministry

If you’re anything like me you get caught up in wanting your ministry to get better and better and better and better and you spend a lot of time DOING Ministry but don’t spend as much time BEING WITH JESUS!! I’m so GUILTY of this!!

We get busy doing stuff FOR JESUS but neglect to spend time WITH JESUS!!!

LOVE JESUS more than ANYTHING ELSE!!

If we want our MARRIAGES to get better, SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS is a MUST!!
If we want to be the best PARENTS, SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS is a MUST!!

You can never SPEND ENOUGH TIME with JESUS!!

-One of the most important things you can do before you leave your house for the day is to SPEND TIME WITH JESUS!

-If we want to REFLECT JESUS in PUBLIC we must SPEND TIME with JESUS in PRIVATE!!

 

“Whatever you do don’t get these OUT of ORDER!!”

-Love Jesus First, then your Wife and Kids, then your Ministry!!
-Your FIRST MINISTRY that God gave you is your FAMILY!!
-Ministry starts at HOME!! Don’t lose your FAMILY trying to serve the CHURCH.
-“FAMILY is your #1 CONGREGATION”!! –Larry Osborne
-“LOVE your WIFE more than you LOVE the CHURCH. The church is JESUS’ BRIDE, not yours!” –Craig Groeschel
-“Don’t allow increasing ministry to decrease your 
intimacy, and don’t let your service exceed your 
worship.” –Doug Fields

The best thing you can do for your
students and ministry is to love Jesus more than both of them.

Philippians 3:8-10
New International Version (NIV)

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death!!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Michael-Hux.png[/author_image] [author_info]

Michael Hux is the Student Pastor of Team Church in Matthews, NC.

Connect with Michael on Twitter or Instagram: @_Hux

 

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Stop Going Crazy

How to not go insane in youth ministry:

Follow these three easy instructions and repeat.

Last weekend I got to spend time with a bunch of other middle school pastor’s at the Youth Cartel’s Campference (theyouthcartel.com). If you work with middle schoolers and haven’t been I highly suggest that you check it out next fall. Several times during the weekend I thought to myself, “It feels so good to know that I’m not crazy for loving middle school ministry.” Youth ministry can make us feel crazy sometimes. The Campference had three things that are universal antidotes to going crazy in youth ministry.

Community – This weekend I was surrounded by people who understood my calling. I couldn’t do youth ministry if I didn’t have other people who affirmed my passion for teens. We need to be reminded regularly that our ministry matters to others and to God. Community reminds of this. Your community doesn’t have to be other youth pastors. It can come from ministry parents and your leadership team. Wherever it comes from you need it! You shouldn’t be doing ministry alone.

Rest – Sometimes the most sanity forming thing we can do is to get away and rest. At the campference all the programming is optional so I didn’t feel guilty when I got away for a nap. When you rest you are reminding yourself that God is in control and it isn’t all up to you. This truth brings sanity to our crazy lives.

Learning – One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I do that so often in ministry. I think I have it all figured out. When I become a learner I open myself to the possibility that there are other ways to think about and practice ministry to teens. I got the chance to learn from some pretty brilliant people this weekend and I am already trying to figure out what changes we need to make.

Community, Rest, and Learning…Three things that will keep us from going crazy in youth ministry. Which of those three do you need most right now? How are you going to get them into your life?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]

Insecurity and Ministry

Do you remember growing up as a child and feeling insecure? I remember a moment in time when I was 13 years old and played basketball for my local town in the community league. At the end of each year, they would pick an “all-star” team to play other communities. For me, this was a big deal. I had made the team the year before and did well. This particular year, we had a new coach and a new system. I tried out and misunderstood what the coach had said to everyone. I didn’t receive a phone call but thought it meant I made the team. The opposite was true, though. I walked up to the gym with the guys and waited for the coach to arrive. When he came, I remember him looking at me with a curious but frustrated look. He asked me to step aside as everyone else walked into the gym, and he told me that I had not made the team.

As my friends walked in and I did not, I felt insecure in my ability as a basketball player. This moment in my life fueled my passion to play high school and then college basketball.

My performance was wrapped up in my identity. 

I entered the ministry, and the urge to continue to find security in my performance still exists. This in turn reveals my insecurity.

One of my struggles has always been feeling insecure. I have a type A personality with a relentless desire to improve and lead others. My weakness is relying more upon what I do and less upon God’s strength in me.

You might feel this way too. We worry about our reputation, rejection and failure. I’m in a daily learning process of finding confidence in God and not in my performance.

5 Ways to Find Confidence in God:

1. Realize you are a child of God. There is nothing that we can do to make God love us MORE or love us LESS. Let that sink into your heart. He is our Heavenly Father, and He defines us.

2. Serve God out of gratefulness. We shouldn’t be lazy but instead should be diligent to fulfill His calling. We need to relentlessly rely upon the Holy Spirit. I try to maintain this throughout the day by praying about everything. I work FROM gratitude and not FOR His worth.

3. Focus upon God’s blessings. Instead of worrying about what we cannot control, focus upon His blessings. Write a list of ways that God has answered prayer. Talk about the people who have began a relationship with Jesus.

4. Stop comparing and start encouraging. You are not that person and they are not you. God made YOU unique and for a specific purpose of glorifying Him. Focus upon God’s calling for your life and live that out with passion. Comparison kills peace. Comparison kills joy. Contentment builds both peace and joy. The next time you start comparing your salary, home, church size and vehicle, start thanking God for His blessings.

5. Trust God with the results. We are not responsible to change people. We are simply given the opportunity to imitate Jesus and influence others with Jesus. God is God; we are not.

What is it in your life that makes you feel insecure? What would you add to the conversation? 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/joshrobinson.png[/author_image] [author_info]Josh is the student pastor at Church @ The Springs in Ocala, Florida (www.thesprings.net). Josh has served in student ministry for 9+ years and has a passion to lead students to imitate Christ and influence the world! He has a personal blog at http://joshrobinson.cc[/author_info] [/author]

The Pain of a Great Event

It’s Sunday afternoon and God has just moved in incredible ways in the youth ministry I pastor, so why do I feel so awful and dejected? How can I not hear the encouragement from others and find myself planted on the few things that did not go right? Is there something wrong with me? Does this have anything to do with me?

The feeling at the end of a great weekend retreat, Disciple Now, camp experience, mission trip, or any of the other events we do can be exhilarating. The group feels a sense of camaraderie and the spirit of the group has completely changed from when you arrived or started. We all love events for this reason (it’s definitely not for the planning). An event can accomplish some things that a weekly service can’t. The part that’s not talked about and that those outside of student ministry don’t get is what I like to call “event lag.” It’s the negative feeling or happenings after an event that just can’t be shaken. It threatens to ruin the whole experience or make us doubt what God has just done.

Often, the problem with “event lag” is that it makes us immediately look towards ourselves. We’ve (hopefully) spent an entire weekend talking about how it’s all about Jesus and within a blink of an eye it’s back to being about us. It is hard not to take the parent gripping about something, or the young person tweeting something dumb, personally. We’ve invested so much into the weekend and we want everything to go smoothly. Part of it is because we want the students/parents to think they have the best youth pastor in the world, but another part of it is that we want to honor God in what we do. How do we respond to criticism? How do we react when things don’t go the way they are planned?

Sometimes events do not work out the way you planned and situations go haywire. Don’t take it personal. Imagine Robin Williams holding you right now saying “It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault… It’s not your fault.” At our fall retreat, my worship leader messaged me two hours before we left to tell me he couldn’t make it because he has diverticulitis… two hours! Diverticulitis! Who’s ever even heard of that?!? I went into a mini-panic, but then I realized that my freak out was not helping anyone. God worked it out when a buddy of mine stepped in to lead worship. Worship was amazing that weekend and it was not something I planned. At the end of the retreat, we planned more than enough drivers to pick us up and we had 4 or 5 that didn’t show up. Just…didn’t…show…up. There are certain things that are within your control, but you can’t control everything. On a side note, if you are a lazy planner or unprepared then you need to repent and get on that grind. Your students and God deserve better.

God can use these hiccups to remind us to trust in Him. It’s easy to slip into a mode of trusting in our own understanding and not His. God will accomplish His work and use every event as a teaching moment for our benefit. Do not let “event lag” come and steal your joy, remember that it is found in God and not in events. Talk it out with a buddy in youth ministry… gain some outside perspective. It’s good to know that you aren’t alone in your feelings. Open up to your spouse, use this as a point of intimacy. Most of all, when your soul feels drained, tired and beat down after an event, be still, and listen to God’s voice. You are a child of the King above being a pastor.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/BrandonWeir.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brandon Weir is the Student Pastor at The Fellowship Round Rock near Austin, TX. What does Brandon love? “I love my wife Jules, my dog Ranger, Texas Tech, being outdoors, the Texas Rangers, camping, hiking, reading, Torchy’s Tacos and I love me some Jesus.”

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What Do You Do All Day?

Every week people spend countless hours behind a desk doing things that get very little attention or appreciation. It’s no different in Student Ministry. In fact, many people ask me the question, “What do you do all week?

Fair question. After all, when they see me on Sunday’s and Wednesday’s I’m giving a sermon, leading games, or giving announcements. How hard can that be? Surely it doesn’t take a whole week to do that?

When a student asks me what I do all day, it usually has no effect on me. I simply reply, “I play Bop-It all day waiting for you to get here.”

But when that question comes from an adult, parent, or volunteer…the depraved, needing of affirmation side of me wants to sit them down and walk them through my weekly schedule. Show them the time that takes me away from my wife and kids. (Meetings, emails, meetings, sermon prep, vision casting, volunteer recruitment & training, school visits, bible studies, football/volleyball games, choir concerts, care visits & meetings, service planning, discipleship, emails, meetings)

Apart from wanting to “prove” our worthiness, I feel that Youth Pastors must ask ourselves this question: “What do you do all day?

Are we being faithful in the small things, the unseen things? Or, are we only being faithful with what is seen, what happens from the stage?

What do you do all day?

Yes, you are preparing a sermon, but are you letting the Holy Spirit lead and speak to you? The fact that you are writing a sermon or Bible Study, does not mean you are being faithful.

Shoot, I’m guilty!

I’ve prepared last minute and given awful sermons. Ones where I felt completely fake. And you know what? They were awesome! You know why? Because I’m REALLY good at winging it! And you probably are also.

So let’s pull back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz and see what’s really under the surface.

Write down everything you do during the week. Where are you wasting time? What could you remove from your schedule in order to be more faithful in your writing and preparation? Are you spending time on your knees? Are you spending time in the commentaries? Do you know how to say “no?” Do you know how to delegate? What small things are taking a back seat? These are just a few of the questions we MUST answer in order to be faithful with the time He has given us.

You may be a good speaker, team member, small group leader, youth pastor, mom, dad, husband, or wife. But what would happen if you started being faithful with the small things?

“‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’” –Matthew 25:23

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Photo-on-2-20-13-at-4.14-PM.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Texas native, Texas Tech Red Raider, M.Div. at Truett Seminary, husband to Ashley, father to Ava, Student Pastor at LifePoint Church in Plano, Tx, table tennis (ping-pong) extraordinaire, addicted to coffee. For anything else…you’ll just have to ask, Email David.[/author_info] [/author]

Keep Going

Ever feel like GIVING UP in Student Ministry??? You need a FOLDER!!!

Lets face it Student Ministry isn’t the easiest thing in the world! Sometimes, a student will get on your nerves or you get that parent email that makes you just want to throw in the towel. It’s not easy because we are sinners dealing with sinners.

But we ALL NEED to REMIND ourselves WHY we do what we DO!!
“To BRING students to JESUS who can CHANGE their LIVES!!”
There is MORE JOY in that than anything in this world!!

No student is ever worth you quitting over!!
No parent is ever worth you quitting over!!
No leader is ever worth you quitting over!!
No email or text is ever worth quitting over!!

 

SEEING one STUDENT meet JESUS for the FIRST TIME is worth years of MINISTRY!!

 

In times that you feel like giving up in Student Ministry, do this!!!

-Start a folder where you can collect emails, tweets, Facebook posts, notes, and cards of how God has changed lives in your Student Ministry

-Pull that email out from the parent who emailed you saying how God changed their student’s life!

-Pull out that hand written card a student wrote you saying how much of a difference you have made in their life!

-Look back at your Student Ministry and see what God has done and rejoice!!

-Pull out that tweet and Facebook post of how a student’s life was changed!!

You will encounter times of wanting to give up and when you do PULL OUT that FOLDER and remind yourself of why you entered ministry in the first place!!

This suggestion came from Doug Fields book, “Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry.” It is a must read!!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Michael-Hux.png[/author_image] [author_info]

Michael Hux is the Student Pastor of Team Church in Matthews, NC.

Connect with Michael on Twitter or Instagram: @_Hux

 

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Do Something (Part 2)

We recently made some videos to highlight how our students are using their time, talents, and resources for the glorification of His kingdom. Adrian is a rapper, and Matthew is a singer. Both only Sophomores they know why they have been gifted. Check it out:

Adrian Stresow from LifePoint Plano on Vimeo.

Matthew Berry from LifePoint Plano on Vimeo.

Reunioned or Ruined

Last weekend I was fortunate to go to something very unique, my youth group’s reunion. That’s right, some 15 years after many of us graduated 50 of us gathered together for a night of reconnecting, dinner and worship. Some of us traveled great distances to be there, including my own youth pastor. We even had our old worship band play some of their old tunes. Singing those songs in our old youth room with my old friends really brought me back to those formative years in my faith.

As I was interacting with my friends I was reminded that one day my current students will graduate, get married and become adults just like we did. Through the conversations I was hit with some themes that made me reflect on how I do youth ministry.

Theme # 1 – Special Ingredients.
Throughout the night people kept talking about what made our youth ministry so great. They talked about how everyone was welcome, no matter who they were and what school they went too. They talked about how everyone experienced God’s grace at a deep level. This is what drew people to our youth group. I hope I never take for granted how powerful a warm, accepting ministry can be for a growing ministry.

Theme # 2 – Life after youth group.
Many of my friends had found it hard to connect with the church and it wasn’t because they didn’t try. The community they found so compelling in high school was lacking as an adult in the church. Some had even experienced deep wounds by church leadership. I was reminded that the faith formation of teenagers requires that we help them connect in the larger church body. It also requires that we prepare them for the inevitable reality that they will be disappointed by the church because it is filled with broken people just like you and me.

Theme # 3 – Life will get hard.
So many of my friends shared about how they “needed” our reunion. There were those who had gone through divorce and others who lost parents. I heard about shattered dreams and broken hearts. For many, these wounds left them disillusioned about God’s presence in their lives. Our reunion was an opportunity for them to be reminded that the God who worked in their hearts as teens is still with us today. I think most youth ministries fail to adequately prepare teens for the reality of living in a broken world. We paint the picture that if we follow Jesus, life will be rosy and fun. When life gets rough, they question their God because we didn’t do a good job of helping them encounter Jesus in the midst of their pain.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get to have a reunion with any of my youth groups, but I hope that I lead mine knowing that I will leave a legacy. I hope that our ministry will be known for displaying Jesus’ amazing grace and helping teens embrace Jesus through the ups and downs of the rest of their lives.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.theyouthministryblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/LibickHawaiiChristmasPhoto.jpeg[/author_image] [author_info]Kevin Libick is a Middle School Pastor living in Fort Worth, TX with his wife Kara and her two cats. He is a novice banjo picker and expert Hawaiian food eater. Kevin loves to connect with other youth workers and equip them to live out their calling in God’s Kingdom. Connect with Kevin on Twitter: @kevinlibick[/author_info] [/author]