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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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]

Thinking Theologically

Sunday we had our first Small Group Leader Training. Every year we tinker with our training and try to make them better than the year before. We want to honor the time that our small group leaders put in and make the training worth missing time on Sunday afternoons with families, napping, watching football, or getting stuff done around the house.

The Problem

Many youth ministry leader trainings are nothing more than band-aid meetings. By that, I mean youth pastors helping volunteers know how to better control kids, relate to teens, or address specific issues students are going through. While there is a time and a space for peripheral issues, that is precisely what they are…peripheral issues. Things going on around the central focus of seeing students engage with the gospel in community.

The Solution

This year our trainings will be less, “here is how to keep a teenagers attention,” and more theology driven.

I believe that if trainings are centered around core doctrine and theology, we will see the depth of our leaders and the quality of our groups increase. For example, this Sunday we taught our leaders about the “Knowability of God.” We concentrated on the idea that while God is incomprehensible, He has chosen to reveal himself to us in a variety of ways and desires for us to ever pursue Him and His will.

After camping on this idea for a bit, we then turned and helped them understand why this is important for students. We examined how discussing integrity and purity are mere behavioral modification discussions unless they are centered in how doing these things help us further know God and walk in His will.

In student ministry, we must make the theological turn. I know authors like Andrew Root are doing a great job of leading in this direction and we would be wise to follow.

If you are looking for where to begin, I would suggest picking up one of a few resources:

1. Christian Belief: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know by Wayne Grudem – 9 bucks & streamlined
2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – more robust but $32 bucks
3. Taking Theology to Youth Ministry by Andrew Root – youth centered & $11 bucks

(Complete Transparency – The above links are affiliate links, which means I get a few cents if you buy a book. This goes toward keeping The Youth Ministry Blog awesome, so thanks in advance if you chose to get one! I only offer resources I believe will be helpful for you.) 

Whether you use one of the above resources or if you already have a book on doctrine and theology, come up with a plan for your leaders. Look at the number of trainings you plan to have and let your leaders know where you hope to go and what you hope to accomplish this year. Cast vision for the trainings. Get them excited about diving deeper and show them how it will benefit their Small Groups.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this. I would love to answer them. Comment below and let me know how you plan to train leaders this year!

[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]

Costa Rica 2013

I’m headed to the airport as I write this post. We are taking a team of 19 to Costa Rica to share the love of Jesus with orphans and help a local church.

Would you please join me in prayer that God would use our team and that my students eyes would be opened to how God is present and moving throughout the world.

Earlier in the year our student ministry took a team to Haiti to do similar work. It’s AMAZING to see the hearts of students opened to global missions!

Tell me about your trips? Where did you go this summer with students?

Thanks for your prayers!

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The Cosmic Battle

Do your students understand that they are in battle? A fear I have is that my students will turn out to be apathetic Christians who do and say the right things with absolutely no passion. I believe this happens when we fail to realize the cosmic battle we are in and whose side we are on!

So this past Sunday, I put a punching bag on stage.

Here’s what it conveyed. The Christian walk can often feel like a battle. We are training ourselves to do, say, and believe the right things. And this can be exhausting! As I preached, I had a student relentlessly punching the bag without stopping. Inevitably, he became exhausted and his pace quickly slowed.

This is how many view the Christian walk. Every punch and upper cut represents a good deed or spiritual discipline.

Right jab. Said my prayers. Left jab. Read my Bible. Right upper cut. Went to church. Etc…

Only this picture is incomplete!

Viewing Christianity this way, as many do, lacks both passion and an understanding of our enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 offers, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

To complete the illustration, I emphasized to my students that following Jesus is not like hitting a punching bag. Punching bags do not hit back and are not out for our destruction. Satan is.

Jesus followers are not training for holiness, but rather becoming holy as they seek Jesus and fight back against the enemy and thief who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10). 

When it comes to discussing spiritual warfare, I see youth ministries error in two directions. They either NEVER talk about evil or make EVERYTHING the work of Satan himself!

As youth pastors we must help students navigate this battle. Here’s how:

1) Help them understand their role and the meaning of holiness.
2) Talk about the real presence and goal of Satan.
3) Remind them of the End! Jesus Wins! (Rev. 19)