Best Decisions I’ve Made in Student Ministry

If you are in a position where you can choose the direction of your student ministry and help guide it, this can be one of the most rewarding and sometimes frightening places to be. You feel the weight of shepherding this ministry you have been entrusted with. In the proper frame of mind, this will cause you to listen, pray, and spend time with the Lord. Sure, there are egomaniacs out there, bent on running the ministry in the way they see fit with little guidance outside of their own minds, but hopefully this is not the common case.

These decisions are sometimes large ones (what programs or services you will offer, vision of your ministry, etc) and sometimes small ones (stage designs, to have donuts or not to have donuts, etc). Some people think through every decision, while other people have more of a “Hey, whatever!” mentality, I find myself in the former camp.

This fall I was working on restructuring our small groups and finding ways for our teaching to coincide with them. In the past, our small groups had been some what autonomous in their teaching, with leaders picking different studies they found intriguing. I wanted to streamline this process, focus in on Scripture more, and really dig into certain passages to help them stick in their mind. Side note: I believe that students will not remember much of what I say in my sermons five years from now (maybe five minutes?), but if I can teach them to study and understand their Word, then this is something they will carry with them for the rest of their life.

I started to feel that I wanted my students to really grasp the Gospel of Jesus in a holistic way. If Jesus is the central figure of Scripture, our Redeemer and Salvation, then I wanted my students to grasp His life and hopefully fall deeper in love with Him. I started to feel pulled towards teaching exegetically through a Gospel and I naturally started to look towards Mark. I say “naturally” because I love the flow of Mark and the straight forward nature of it. A professor at seminary had opened my eyes to Mark in a profound way, and I’ve never thought of it the same since then.

This was a big undertaking though, it meant over four months in the book of Mark to teach it adequately in the way I wanted to. It meant not teaching through some of our regular fall series. What if the students got tired of going through the same book? What if staying in the same chapter all week long meant they would check out of groups? I know these may seem silly to you, but these were my thoughts.

I trudged forward with Mark in spite of my doubts, we are three weeks away from finishing, and it has been an awesome Spirit-led decision. I devoured books and studies on Mark. We didn’t skip over the difficult parts of Mark, but tackled them head on. We asked tough questions and didn’t shy away from God’s truth. Our students have come to grasp the life of Jesus in a way they never have before. They read ahead to get a better picture of what’s coming up. When students have gotten saved over the past few months, I tell them to read Mark, knowing that we have a group of students that can walk and guide them through their readings. It has helped to galvanize our ministry and the adults are learning a lot too.

All of this to say, don’t be afraid to teach God’s Word. Don’t be afraid in student ministry to engage the Word in a deep and meaningful way. Make it fun and ask the tough questions. Our students have gotten the most out of the misunderstood passages like the Rich Young Ruler. God’s Word will change you and your ministry. God’s Word is awesome…

[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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TYMB 008: Talking Disciple Now & Retreats

In Session 8 of the podcast, I discuss Disciple Now with co-blogger Brandon Weir. More specifically, we look at:

1. Why Youth Ministries do retreats like Disciple Now
2. Where we have found success during retreats
3. Structure of Disciple Now
4. Pro’s & Con’s of Adult Volunteers vs. College Students
5. Thoughts about Branding & Preparation
6. Getting Feedback

Action Items:

1. Give the podcast a Rating and Review on iTunes so that other Youth Pastors can find us!
2. What was the best part of your Disciple Now or retreat weekend? We would love to hear what has worked best for you! Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

Banqueting Table

It’s Thanksgiving and my stomach is beginning to prepare for the feast that lies ahead. I woke up at 5 amto put the turkey in to be sure that everything would be ready on time. I’ve lovingly basted that turkey multiple times over the few hours it’s been in the oven. I love a good feast and Thanksgiving happens to be one of my favorite days of the year.

Last night, my wife needed to pick up some last minute things (there always seems to be last minute things for a feast of this magnitude), and I offered to go for her. She has a lot on her plate and any way I can help I should. Offering to go to Wal-Mart is a big deal for me. I HATE going to Wal-Mart… I have a touch of social anxiety with large crowds and chaos, which only seems to get magnified as I get older. If you know me, this probably comes as a surprise because I seem loud and extroverted, which is true in most situations. My anxiety makes it tougher to go to concerts, sporting events, etc. Strangely enough, I work at a decent sized church and it does not bother me there.

If I’m honest, Wal-Mart is extra-difficult because of the many types of people who go there. Sorry if my honesty offends you, but many people that frequent my Wal-Mart are loud, don’t understand personal space, and can be rude. This is exacerbated by the fact that if I’m looking for something specific, it takes me an awful amount of time to find it. I end up walking around the store multiple times and it’s not like you can ever find an employee there. I find myself oscillating somewhere between anger and feeling overwhelmed almost the entire time I am there. Wal-Mart and I are not friends.

As I came home exhausted and feeling like I was about to explode, I began to process. I love to be in control and in that entire situation, I was not in control. I found myself praying and asking God to give me insight. I began to ask God to give me a heart for the people of Wal-Mart. I know weird…

I’m reminded of Jesus going to back to Matthew’s house after he’s just asked him to “follow him.” Jesus sits down for a feast with Matthew and some of his friends. Matthew’s friends were not highly regarded, to say the least. I imagine the people of Wal-Mart being the type of people Jesus would invite to a feast at His house. He would have loved them well and enjoyed their company.

There’s a section of the Ragamuffin Gospel where Brennan Manning talks about this very dilemma and our prejudice. He says, “A friend of mine once told me years ago that the one thing that made her uneasy about heaven is that she won’t get to choose her table companions at the Messianic banquet.” That’s a pretty interesting thought huh? Republicans sitting next to Democrats, religious people next to criminals, uneducated with the educated, the uncool next to those infatuated with their image, all different kinds of people….sinners next to sinners. This feast will be unlike any other.

The image of a feast is a perfect image for this Kingdom Truth. Typically, you only choose to eat with people you like. Sometimes, you are forced to eat with others for meetings etc, but if you had your choice you would probably pick someone who’s company you enjoy. I wonder if in the Kingdom we’ll enjoy people more. The way we’re designed to. To recognize differences and enjoy them. If not, Heaven’s gonna be an awkward place. The Bible never says that there will be no more awkward. The Kingdom is a place where everything is as God has designed it, and He designed us to love others, even in our differences.

I continue to pray for God to soften and change my heart towards others. It’s hard because of my prejudices and anxiety. I don’t want to make excuses for the Kingdom not being lived out in my life. Maybe I need to spend some more time in Wal-Mart. Today, we are having guests at our house for Thanksgiving, some we have never even met. It might get awkward and we might disagree on some things (as long as no one roots against the Cowboys we’ll be fine), but we’ll feast. It’s probably not the Thanksgiving I would have imagined years ago, but God has a funny way of bringing the unexpected when you seek Him. It’s a refining process for me. It’s preparing me for feasting in Heaven. I long for a feast the way God intended it to be. It’s going to be an outrageous party.

[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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Are You Not Entertained?

There is no doubt that we live in the most entertained generation in the history of the world. People don’t just watch television anymore; they sit down with their iPad, phone, and/or laptop while they “watch TV.” We are multi-taskers by nature now. When I sit in a Dr’s office waiting for an appointment, the first thing I do is pull out my phone and check Twitter. We get on YouTube, read blogs, or watch movie trailers for hours before we even realize it. A lot of our time is spent connected to technology.

Now here’s the part where you expect me to complain about how much time we spend on these things. I’ll let someone else write that blog. The reality is that this is the world we live in. This is the world that most of our students participate in and have grown up in. Elementary school kids have phones with internet on them. Some schools give kids iPads to work on. Toddlers know how to use an iPhone. As pastors and youth ministries we are fighting for the attention of these kids from a thousand different things and this will not change anytime soon. And if we are going to hope to engage them then maybe we need to consider reaching into their world. The church has often failed to recognize, engage in, or address culture , let alone be on the cutting edge of it. We can sometimes be the most resistant to change. Actually, that’s most of the time…

So what does this mean for us? It means that the way we communicate has to
be mindful of this and we have to continue to grow as ministers and ministries. The message of the Gospel does not change, but the way we communicate it must evolve. Jesus used Parables that were relevant to the people of his time to communicate the Gospel.

When I first arrived at my ministry, I was foolish enough to think I was simply entertaining enough to hold their attention. I realize now that I was stubborn on some things. The Truth of Jesus cannot be compromised, but if I can more effectively communicate this, then why wouldn’t I try. The truth is, very few people want to listen to a boring communicator and if the heart of the Gospel is Good News, which it is, then this should be exciting for people to hear.
Here’s some tips to continue to evolve:

Ask people – Ask your students and adults what they remember from your sermon. Ask them what they liked about it. It will help you understand what’s sticking in their minds

Don’t be afraid to use media – I love the spoken word and I hope that pastors never lose their ability to paint a picture through words. All of that said, there’s a reason students love GIFs, Instagram, videos. A video or a GIF will draw students in and can paint a picture better than words SOMETIMES. If you’re not a funny communicator or a great story teller then these can help you along. I spend a lot of time on Vimeo, Infinity List, and blogs finding ways to better illustrate points.

Work on it – Are you “fine” with how you teach? If you communicate in front of your students a lot, you should never stop working on your communication. Work on your pace, rhythm, volume, and pausing. It will start coming more natural and will make you feel more confident.

Say less, mean more – It’s frustrating listening to a communicator dance around the point, when a concise well thought out point would have made it more powerful. This takes time and crafting of the message.

Let students communicate – I get it… they’re not seasoned communicators. Yes, they may say something wrong. But it’s powerful when students hear from their peers. We let our students share about their experiences after a week of prayer and fasting, and it was the most powerful part of the evening.

Find your voice – You are not *insert your favorite preacher’s name* and you never will be. Stop trying to copy their voice. Definitely stop copying their sermons, it’s just lazy. Have you ever thought that listening to so many different podcasts might actually hinder your ability to find your own unique voice? I get it, there’s nothing new under the sun and we all use things we hear from others, but do not get in the habit of solely leaning on the thoughts of others. You need to hear from the Lord about what He wants to speak to your group of students.

Powerpoint can help – Our worship guy told me I should use Powerpoint more often and I told him he was an idiot… haha well maybe in not so many words. I was completely against it, but it’s hard to dismiss the value of it. It does not have to be used all the time but it can help those points really sink it.

Teach the Bible – Students find it interesting when they learn something. Many of them have very little knowledge of the Scriptures and we are called to teach them these truths. Students will devour the Bible, if it is taught correctly and interesting. It’s God’s Word and is meant to be buried deep within our hearts.

Redeem it – As the church we tend to be hestitant about initiating change due to the culture. And we should be. But maybe instead of avoiding or resiting cultural shifts we should aim towards redeeming it. Technology can be used and abused many different ways, but it can also be used by the Redeemed to advance the Gospel. Let’s use this as an opportunity to teach our students that we don’t avoid everything in the world, we just use it differently.

I would be the first to defend that our primary purpose as ministers is not to be entertainers. I am not a standup comedian or an actor. I am a minister of the gospel who eagerly desires to communicate God’s Word well. Let us not forget that what we are teaching has great power when it is infused with the Holy Spirit. “…grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and sign and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30)

[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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Don’t Be Dramatic

Pastors deal with some pretty serious stuff: being entrusted to care for people’s souls, walking them through painful situations, speaking the Word, etc etc. There’s no doubt that most are underpaid and overworked. Also, there’s no arguing that what we do has eternal significance. But let’s be honest, pastors have this way of being over dramatic about some things too. We can take ourselves WAY too seriously. This seriousness is not just limited to the pastors of the adults, it’s a problem for student pastors as well. Our world is filled with drama, just look at the magazines next time you check out at the grocery story. Pastors are not immune to our world’s insatiable desire for drama. We have to guard ourselves from getting sucked in. Here’s a few things to watch out for:

1. Stop telling everyone how busy you are. We are busy, but so are the people in your congregation. They do not want to spend five minutes listening to you talk about how tired and busy you are. If you need rest or a break, go through the right channels and get it, but nobody wants to listen to you complain.

2. Speak life. This is a tough one for me. I get on the negative roller coaster and just can’t seem to get out of the seat. That stinking bar just won’t let me get out. Everything becomes negative. I complain about all kinds of stuff. When I find myself on that roller coaster I need to stop, take a breath, and choose to be thankful. At this point I know that I need to stop fixating on my problems and be intentional to find people to encourage.I text, email, write or call someone I haven’t encouraged in a while. Also, it’s good to keep a Kingdom perspective. What’s really important?

3. Quit over-worrying about the details of the service. If the sound bothers you so bad that God can’t move through it, then either fire your sound person (good luck with that) or talk with them about about it and move on.  Most people barely notice the things we get so hung up on. I can find myself dwelling too long on a mistake in the service, while the service is still going on…yeah that’s not good.

4. Stay out of high school and middle school drama. If you find yourself getting caught up in gossip or constantly worrying about your students then find a way to separate yourself. Maybe you don’t need to follow your students on Twitter and Instagram. You are called to love them, even when it’s difficult. If something is keeping you from doing this then back off. You are called to pastor them, not get mixed up in their drama.

5. Think about the One you serve. We are finite. Our pastoring is finite. God is infinite. Trust that He’s in control and then act like it. Getting too stressed about every detail, or the drama that surrounds us, are two quick ways to burn out in ministry. Stay humble and realize that it isn’t all about you. It is a privilege to serve the King of Kings, so give Him your best. We learn from the Sermon on the Mount that your best is not just your actions, but it’s about your heart. Untangle yourself from any drama that is holding you back and recognize the freedom that comes from living soley for Him.

[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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Maranatha

This week our student ministry has been walking through a tradition of ours called Maranatha. Maranatha is a word that can be translated as “Our Lord Come.” It’s not a word we use or hear a lot today, but for the early church it carried great importance. It was a reminder… a reminder that Jesus would come again. It was a source of hope. The early church would say it to one another as a an expression of joy that their Lord would come back one day, but also to remember they needed to be praying for His return. It became so common that the early church would use it as they greeted one another. There was an understanding that Jesus would return and they needed to prepare themselves and anticipate it.

We are commanded in Scripture to be looking and praying for the return of Jesus. “waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God” 2 Peter 3:12. It’s a reminder that this world is not all that there is. We have a promise of a greater future with Jesus.

Another part of waiting for the return of the bridegroom is found in Mark chapter two. People come to Jesus and ask “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” Let’s be honest, they really want to know why Jesus’ disciples don’t look as religious as these other guys. Ok Jesus, if your supposed to be this great man, teacher, and possibly the Messiah, then why don’t your guys fast like those other disciples. How come they look more religious than your guys do? It’s funny how religion can become a competition for us.

Jesus says that fasting has changed now that the bridegroom (Messiah, Savior) is now with them, but there will come a day when  He is taken away and “then they will fast in that day.”

Then they will fast…

Jesus seems to understand that when He is taken away his disciples will fast. He does not give exclusions or ways out of this, just simply that they will fast. When I first understood this I was floored. When I was saved in high school, I was a part of a church where if anyone was fasting they certainly weren’t talking about it. No one had ever taught me about fasting or showed me how to fast, and here’s this clear call from Jesus to fast. Once I realized this and began to fast, I saw the great importance and benefits of fasting. Because of this, I made a clear decision to teach and tell others about the discipline of fasting.

Today, I lead a youth ministry full of some pretty awesome students, some of which have expressed a strong desire to grow deeper in their relationship with Jesus.  I wanted to provide an opportunity present the heartbeat of Maranatha and fasting to them. Since, it is a call in Scripture I wanted my students to learn this in a biblical way. We need to be praying for Christ’s return and fasting for the Bridegroom that has left us. Out of this came our Maranatha week. We spend one week a semester in fasting and prayer.

Maybe you are thinking, “How could he ask students to fast from food for a week?” and some of you extra religious types are thinking “Fasting is to be done in private!” First off, we do not ask students to fast from food, but to fast from something that will allow them to spend more time with God and in prayer. (Television, social media, their phone, their snooze button) To the other objection, we see throughout Scripture that there were times of corporate fasting where it was one voice crying out for God. There are many disciplines (quiet time, prayer, fasting) that are intended for the individual alone, but if we don’t teach them how to biblicaly practice these things then how will they learn?

These weeks have been amazing. We started this two years ago and I still have adults that can’t fathom young people giving up their cell phones, television, or social media to spend more time with God… but they do. Given a challenge like this, your students will surprise you. Our students rally around it, they ask one another before we begin what they will be fasting from. They encourage one another to stay strong and hold each other accountable. We meet every night from 7-8 for prayer and students come and go. We pray for Jesus’ return and for students in our community to know Him. It has been especially refreshing for me as a pastor. We can get caught up in the big events, loud music, teaching, and games that we rarely stop to have quiet moments of prayer with our students.

I talk about the spiritual disciplines often with our students and I would encourage you to try something like this with your students. You may need to change some things to better fit your group, but here are some suggestions when talking about fasting:

1. You can talk about fasting and ease students into it. You would have parents freaking out if you told their students not to eat for a week. Plus, with athletes and young people it’s not good for them to be skipping meals. So, I spend time teaching about fasting from things that hold us back from spending more time with God and introduce food fasting. This gives them a clear line of growth and we’ve had some of our older students give up a meal.

2. Make sure they know the focus of fasting. We focus on Jesus and not what we’re doing.

3. Be sure to teach on it. You would be amazed at how many students know very little about fasting or that it is a Christian discipline.

4. Not everyone is able to fast because of health reasons. If someone has trouble with eating disorders or can not physically do it, then they should not feel ashamed. This is where fasting from other stuff becomes so important.

5. Show them how important it is to say “God is greater than anything else in my life.” If you cannot give up television for a week to spend more time with God, it might be an idle in your life.

If you are not currently fasting, may this be an encouragement and challenge to seek out this spiritual discipline. God gives breakthrough and speaks in powerful ways through fasting.

[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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Boo

Jimmy Kimmel has done a bit the last couple of years where he asks parents to tell their kids that they ate all of their Halloween candy, and then video the response. It’s my favorite part of Halloween. I love to see the kids go absolutely ballistic when they don’t get their way. I need to know who my future politicians will be (low blow?). It makes me excited to be a dad some day. You should pray for my future kids. The rest of Halloween I could do without. You could say I don’t fancy Halloween much. I don’t enjoy all the dark images, demons, and evil that surrounds it and I definitely don’t trust candy from strangers. I know it makes me sound old school, kind of like your grandma, but I have never liked it.

The truth is that the rest of the world seems to be going in the opposite direction. Before I moved to Round Rock, TX (original name I know), I barely saw Halloween decorations, but now our neighborhoods are filled with them… my neighborhood is filled with them. It makes me wonder about the kind of people living around me when their yards are filled with bats, ghosts, tombstones, dead bodies (fake I hope), and all sorts of ghouls. I’m just trying to survive this crazy holiday.

Don’t get the wrong impression though, just because I don’t like Halloween does not mean I’m the kind of youth pastor that rants to my students about how terrible it is. There are battles I choose to fight and spend my time on in youth ministry…this isn’t one of them. I won’t spend Wednesday night talking about how it’s wrong to go to haunted houses or dress up. I will ask my students to be safe and wear appropriate costumes.

As youth pastors we have to be mindful of the tone we take about such matters. Blasting Halloween may remove your opportunity to talk about the deeper issues of the holiday. Halloween carries a ton of spiritual aspects and image struggles for students, whether it’s girls with their body image or people simply wanting to be something else. When discussing topics like Halloween, I do not want to be a ministry that simply lays out a bunch of do’s and don’ts, telling people what to think and never teaching it’s people to think for themselves. Choosing to fight a surface level cultural battle may mean you lose the chance to talk about the spiritual war going on. Here’s what I mean…

The other day some people in our Lifegroup of young married couples were talking about one of those demon movies (aren’t all scary movies these days?) and I made an off hand comment that we don’t watch those. They thought this was weird, you could tell. At this point they felt the need to clarify, they said they don’t watch scary movies that could actually happen, but since demons aren’t real then these are fine. To them, movies with demons are okay because they have no real elements of evil within them. These are “good” church going people and they don’t believe demons are real.

Our world has an odd concept of evil. We agree that murder is wrong, rape is wrong, and bullying is wrong. It seems our world has a concept of what’s wrong with the physical world, but when it comes to a spiritual realm we leave that to people with backwards beliefs in third world countries and the charismatics. Many people in the church today do not know or believe in “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)

Our churches today have shied away from talking about this realm. We act like it doesn’t exist. Often, celebrating Halloween the way that the world celebrates it, lifts high the spiritual evil and darkness of the world. It magnifies darkness, death, evil, fear, anxiety, and demons. While I will concede that most of this is done in the name of “good fun” and “pretend”, I would contend that this ignorance and embracing of evil is the greater problem. Many people are worshiping darkness without understanding what they are doing.

demon treats

For many students, you are the most spiritual person they know in their lives.
It’s my prayer that when you speak to your students about Halloween you will use it as an example to teach truth about the spiritual realm. This holiday opens up massive opportunities to have honest spiritual conversations. We can not run from it or ban it. Our world today is more interested in it than ever and it’s not going away any time soon, no matter how much you yell about it from the stage. Let’s be youth ministries that respond and teach well, no matter our preferences.

And for all you Halloween people, enjoy seeing all the foxes, Miley Cyrus’, Monsters’ U, Minions, and whatever else is popular right now. I’ll be on my front porch chilling, handing out candy and watching out for crazy neighbors.

[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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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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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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Give Up

My favorite movies growing up consisted of some form of Karate. I loved the never say die attitude in them, the fighting and the sound effects. One thing you learn quickly in martial arts movies is that you “Never Give Up, Never Surrender.” While this makes for a thrilling movie, it’s not consistent with life, especially in ministry. Many pastors take these unrealistic expectations with us into ministry. We bring a refusal to give up or trust anyone mentality with us into ministry.

When I say “give up”, I’m not trying to get you to quit your job. I mean doing your job better. I mean giving up on your ego and trusting God. It’s a better way of doing ministry when we trust and know Jesus. Here’s a few things I’ve given up on in my three years of doing youth ministry.

1. Give up on changing students lives’ 

Realize that it’s the Holy Spirit that changes lives and not your words, actions, or power. I’ve spent much of my young ministry trying to be the difference maker. I thought if I phrased things perfectly or spent enough time crafting my message that it would change lives. In reality, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to change lives… not yours. If I’m not connecting with Jesus then I’m trusting my own power, strength, intelligence, ideas or words to change students’ lives. This is a lonely road that ends with many youth pastors trying to grow their own ego, quitting when they see little fruit, and moving on to something else.

2. Give up some of your power

Empower your people! I know it will take a lot of time and training, and sure, they won’t do it as well as you (or so you think), but you need to trust them. Ministry can’t be done alone and sometimes an effort you deem as “B team” is actually better for your ministry. It gets people bought in, and gives your ministry multiple voices. When people are bought in, they will devote more to a ministry. Multiple voices are needed for your ministry, and I don’t just mean from the “pulpit.” When people are invested it gives them a fulfillment and you shouldn’t hold back that joy from people.

3. Give up your need to be “right”

This mentality infiltrates every area of your ministry. You work with students, and guess what??? This means they are going to make mistakes. How you love and guide them through this has a profound effect on the rest of their lives. I find myself being too judgmental and not showing grace or love often enough. We love to hit students with rule following, but how do we show grace?

Needing to be right, hinders our ability to listen when others are critical of our ministry. That parent or other staff member might be right… It hurts our pride when we’re wrong and often we take it personal when others are critical of our ministry, but what if they’re right. If you don’t always need to be “right” then you might get some valuable information for your youth ministry. I’ve been guilty of getting so fixated on doing ministry my way that I’ve missed out on opportunities to grow.

Giving up takes confidence in what Jesus is doing in you and your ministry. You have to be able to hear God’s voice in it or it can wreck your self esteem. All of that said, it’s a better way of doing ministry. It requires you to find the gifts of those around you and bring them out. It means not getting offended by the fact that someone in your ministry might be better than you are at something. It means loving others enough to give them a shot. If we never give up, we’ll never see what all God can do through us.

[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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