How Christian Music is Made

Hilarious parody of the “behind the scenes” of Christian music.

Book Review: The Goodness of God

Book Review:  The Goodness of God by Randy Alcorn

The Good:51v3wMK6YnL

The Honest Truth.  Some books are careful about what people might think or those that might disagree.  Not this one.  This book raises its right hand and tells the truth, nothing but the truth, and gets a whole bunch of help from God.  That’s probably what I like most about this book is its honesty.  This was a difficult task to provide people with “assurance in the midst of suffering”.  But this book shoots down argument after argument with the truth of God’s Word, basic reasoning, and turns the tables with fantastic questions.  Which brings us to my next point…

Awesome Apologetics.  Man, if you are on the lookout for a dynamite apologetics book.  Light the match and be ready for this to blow you away.  Countless times I stopped after a rebuttal to common arguments of atheists and anti-sufferer-ers…and I was like “that is so good!”.  Responses that are practical and in the category of “Why didn’t I ever think of that?”, but yet powerful and so effective.

Priceless Definitions.  All throughout the book, Alcorn provides these quick definitions for words that are a regular part of our vocabulary.  Easily one of my favorite parts of the book when I would stumble upon another Alcorn-ism, so to speak.  For example, on page 110, we find a definition of worry as “momentary atheism crying out for correction by trust in a good and sovereign God”.  Signed, seal, and deliver that one to the bank!  And there’s more, but I don’t want to spoil them all for you.

The Bad:

Some Repetition.  There is some repetition of thoughts in the same chapter that could be avoided, but even that is ticky-tack.  Really not much wrong with this book, and I can see why I was given this book and told “It is excellent”…because it is.

The Grade:  A+.  When have you picked up a book, and upon finished the final page, your perspective on life is changed.  Now that’s a powerful book.  Randy Alcorn uses God’s Word effectively in reorienting your mind and heart towards a proper perspective on suffering.  He’s not afraid of feelings and what is fair, he simply brings the truth of God’s Word on the subject of suffering, and let’s you have it.  And argument after argument from the other side of God’s Word is shot down with overwhelming consistency and extensively.  Send this book to your hurting friend, sick neighbor, or grieving family member.  It’s worth the price on Amazon, the stamp, and it’s weight in gold.

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Reflections of an Intern

62f49b237c2fe6861446e264bc4293bb[GUEST POST BY:  DEVIN GOODWIN, INTERN EXTRAORDINAIRE]

No Task is too Small

I’ve been given many tasks while being an intern. This ranges from sweeping the floor to filling water for the fridge. But none of it is meaningless. This continuously points to the servant leadership that Christ desires for all.

Cling to Mentors

Listen to everything that your mentors tell you. These are the Godly people who you desire to be in the future. Ask them questions. See how they interact with problems. See how they follow after Christ. This is all God’s way of pointing you to Himself and showing you how you can serve Him in vocational ministry in the future.

Invest in People

Just because you are only in that position for a short amount of time doesn’t mean that you can slack off with the relationship side of ministry. Find people who you can disciple and point to Jesus. They need to see how personal He is and a lot of the ways that He is personal is through His body. The Spirit points us to the people that we are meant to be with and we are able to use what we are learning in Scripture to point others to a greater knowledge and love for Him.

Don’t Focus so much on your Work that you Neglect Christ

sidebar-1 Just because you are doing the work of the ministry doesn’t mean that you can stop investing in your own relationship with Christ. Make sure you are spending time in the Word and having deep times of prayer. Find things that stir your affections for Him. This can be by getting into nature, reading a good book, spending time with others, drinking a good cup of coffee, watching a good movie, or anything else that really gets you excited to serve Christ.

Don’t put yourself on a Pedestal

While being in a ministry position as an intern it is easy to think that you need to have it all together. This is insane! Thanks to sin, we will never have it all together. But this gives us the ability to follow after a relationship with Christ with other flawed people. So if you are hurting, let them know because then they can start to point you to Christ even better than before.

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Why is the church losing 5th graders?

Here is a clip highlighting the problem invading the church that begins even before teenage-dom.  Have a listen and allow it to motivate you to reach this generation for Christ.

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Two Secrets That Will Help Build Your Summer Ministry

Has this ever happened to you in the summer?  You plan a canoe trip and three teens show up?  Or you put together a whiffle ball home run derby, one guy shows up, and is automatically declared the winner?  These are true stories from my ministry.  Summer events can be frustrating.  Whether it is the different schedule of summer, vacations, or sports camps…it proves to be difficult to host a successful summer event.  So, over the years, as I have evaluated the summer ministries, I have found two effective ways to do summer ministry.

#1 – Scale Down

imagesTake a breather.  Listen, with week-long mission trips, camps, mission projects, Vacation Bible School…your attendance at weekly meetings will begin to dip.  The philosophy of scaling down in summer youth ministry is highly debated.  You will find the “summer is the best time to do ministry” crowd.  And if that works for you, Praise God.  But, in my experience, keeping the normal ministry schedule has resulted in low attendance, picking and choosing of ministry involvement, and tired leaders.

Instead, we put our energy and passion into the other events of the summer.  We serve together for big children’s ministry events.  We build our efforts towards mission trips and projects.  Our leaders recoup and find refreshment.  And you know what happens when fall rolls around?  They are pumped and primed for ministry!  The summer builds up that opening night of the school year schedule.

#2 – Summer Hang Out

PosterThe summer schedule is unpredictable.  So, as Kevin Durant would say, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”.  Use informal time to build into the students.  Take a few guys out for ice cream, babysit for your wife to take some girls out for coffee, or invite some teens over for a ministry project during the week.  Use this time for some informal discipleship, catching up, and building unity over the summer.

We posted an announcement on Facebook to let the students know their leaders were available to hang out sometime this summer.  Some girls called my wife to have dinner.  I was able to have lunch with a few guys the last few weeks.  It’s nothing earth-shattering, but the conversations have been priceless.  What I want to happen at events (informal discipleship) is happening in this brief get-together.

What about you?  What works for you in the summer?  I’d love to hear your secrets to a successful summer.

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My Intern Starts Today…What Do I Do?

Today is the day conceptional words on white board

Today is the day conceptional words on white board

The intern’s first day.  It’s been on your calendar for months now.  Almost blinking at you with red, neon lights.  What will I have him/her do for the whole summer?  How much is too much?  What if I tell them all I know in the first day and then having nothing else to share?

With anything, it is good to have a plan.  Internships should provide on-job training for a future occupation.  What type of training will you provide?  Internships aren’t like what you see on the movies where you just have them take in your dry cleaning, pick up donuts & coffee, and answer all your phone calls.  A church internship probably does not want to resemble the “Devil Wears Prada”.  It should be more like “The Youth Pastor Wears Old Nike’s”.

Here’s a basic plan for your youth intern:

  • Early Communication. Stay in touch with the intern from the time you offer the position to the time it starts.  Begin to attach them in youth leader email updates.  See how they are doing.  Pray together.  Let them know the “dress code” of the office.  Fill them in on details they are wondering like weekly pay, lunches, and office hours.
  • 1st Day – “Orientation”. Provide the intern with a basic schedule.  Review the tasks that will be required.  Take time for questions and concerns.  Give a tour of the building.  Show them how to use the copier, fill out reimbursement slips, and how to not set off the alarm in the morning.
  • Schedule. Use Google calendar, or something similar, and allow this to be a collaborative effort.  Invite secretaries, other staff, and the intern to join the online calendar.  Put on the calendar major church events, service times, days off, and meeting times.  This provides a great structure for the internship experience and expectations from the beginning of what the schedule will look like.
  • Task List. Separate this into 3 categories.  Daily tasks, Weekly Tasks, & Visionary Tasks.
    • Daily Tasks – one-on-one meetings, , journal & reading. In the beginning, have them journal every 30 minutes of their work day.  Then broaden it to an everyday journal.  Provide 5-10 books that will promote growth in their ministry growth.  Examples include “The Seven Checkpoints” (Stanley), “The Greenhouse Project” (Walker/Calhoun), “Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry” (Fields).
    • Weekly Tasks – staff meetings, discussion questions, lesson preparation and execution, hospital/visitation, student discipleship
    • Visionary Tasks – Big event planning, camp/mission trip participation, parent meeting preparation, youth leader preparation, children’s ministry administration
  • Must-Haves.
    • Include a big event planning somewhere in the process – promotion, execution, even hosting, and clean-up. Experience with planning a larger event with you guiding the process will be a tremendous help.
    • Exposure to wide range of age groups. While youth ministry is often focused on teens, many churches require youth pastors to have experience teaching different age groups.  This means teaching children and even preaching to adults may be good to add to your task list.
    • Journaling – this is a good exercise for the intern to reflect on their experience each day. The journal will reiterate lessons that will save them from heartache later in their ministry down the road.
    • Teaching Opportunities. Take time to say “this is why we do this”.  Ask questions that begin with “why do you think I would” or “what would you do if…”.  Keep the training ongoing even in conversation.hellomynameisintern

This is a good start for your internship experience.  If you implement this model for your intern, it should provide them with great training and experience for their next phase in ministry.  Hoping this will allow them to walk away more excited about how God can use them in mighty ways serving Him.

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What I Learned on a Student Mission Trip to NYC

wol-logo-fullThis past week, I had the joy of leading a group of students to a mission trip to New York.  The beginning of the week was filled with hard work on the Word of Life Bible Institute Campus and Word of Life camps.  We mowed acres of land, and painted about a dozen cabins.  It was a full couple days of work.  Then, we took off for New York City to share the Gospel on the streets.  Here’s what I learned from this precious week of ministry…

No “I Can’t”.  We could have easily made this entire trip a week of work.  Painting, cleaning, and serving at the camp would have been a blessing to both our team and the camp.  We would have been physically stretched for sure, but these students needed something more.  This was a step of faith, and for some a terrifying step.  But they did it!  They shared their faith with complete strangers, handed out tracts to people passing by, and prayed with people who needed answers.  I saw fear change to boldness.  A boldness I hope will carry on to bring the Gospel here…and reach this city for Christ.

People Need the Lord.  Sorry for putting that famous Steve Green song in your head for the rest of the day, but it’s true.  There are people who are searching for something bigger, searching for hope, searching for joy, searching for forgiveness…and the list goes on.  And the Gospel can provide all these things.  God has provided a way of hope, joy, forgiveness and assurance of eternal life.  And people need this and many want to hear about it.GPS NYC tshirt design

God Controls The Weather.  I remember looking at the weather for our trip and seeing many days with rain in the forecast.  With good weather being of utmost importance, I just had to pray that God would work it all out.  Well, would you believe that it only rained when we were not doing ministry?  That’s right, it rained at breakfast one day, and on the days of travel.  Incredible!  God is truly in control.

I’m ashamed that I’m ashamed.  Why am I not sharing the sweet good news of the Gospel more?  Am I ashamed of the Gospel?  Am I too lazy?  Am I too busy?  If I’m honest with myself, it is probably a combination of the three.  There’s no reason why I cannot have more Gospel conversations.  It shouldn’t take 1500 miles of travel for me to be motivated to daily focus on sharing the Good News.  While I have the privilege of sharing Jesus regularly as a pastor, I fall way short of the faithful witness God wants me to be.

I love my “job”.  You may think I’m crazy for taking 7 teenagers into New York City (by the way, my wife was with us and she is amazing, and I brought another leader who was incredible on the trip as well).  Who would spend a week of their summer driving nearly 25 hours, staying up late, mustering up energy to get teens up (and yourself up), sleeping on cot mattresses on the floor…I LOVED IT ALL!  These teenagers bring me joy.  I get to see them share their hearts, help others, grow closer to God, encourage each other, fight through fears and frustrations, and come home changed.  I’m so very blessed to this for a living.

imagesSo for those that debate on doing short-term mission trips…do it.  Do it to find life-changing results.  Do it to change the culture of your youth ministry.  Do it to help spread the Gospel and the love of Jesus.  Do it because there is no lesson, program, or event you can design that does what these trips do.  The teens that got on that bus or van at the beginning of the week will be different when they step off that bus or van at the end of the week.  Go and make disciples of all nations!

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Book Review: Age of Opportunity

Book Review:  Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp

The Good:index

Do you know a Teenager?  Then read this book.  If you are a parent of a teenager, read this book.  If you work with teenagers, read this book.  If you know the name of a teenager, read this book.  Seriously, it is one of the best books I have read for guiding teens to a godly life.

Preparation for Life.  I feel like this book truly prepares the parent for real life.  Tripp is honest in his parenting short falls and weaknesses that we all share as parents.  He does not sugar coat the difficulty of raising a teenager, but he provides valuable insight on truly getting your teenager ready to face the world, AND have an effect on the world for Christ.

Biblical.  This book is intensely Biblical.  Drawing the wisdom and insight from Scripture, it allows you trust what is being presented, because it is straight from God’s Word.  It not only provides the Scripture backing, but also ways to guide your teens to find their answers for living within the pages of the Word of God.

The Bad:

Length.  If you are not an avid reader, this would be the only drawback.  It is a long parent book, but if you stick with it, it is well worth your time.

The Grade:  A.  No book is perfect (except ones that are inspired by God), but this one is a good as they come.  Every parent should have this on their shelf and should be referenced often in their pursuit of raising godly children.  It provides practical ways to prepare their child for real life along with a proper balance of living an effective Christian life.  Priceless advice that needs to be read and re-read often.

 

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Book Review: Mighty Men

Book Review:  Mighty Men by John Crotts

The Good: 

41Y2F5DK1CLLeadership Inspiration.  As a man, you don’t walk away from this book with your head down and wallowing in your “I can’t do this” pity.  It gives you a little pep in your step to get the job done.  This book provides you practical steps to accomplish leadership in the family.

The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me.  Love when a book has a solid foundation in God’s Word.  Well, this book’s foundation, walls, outlets, and ceiling fans are all rooted in the Bible.  Every subject, heading, chapter is firmly supported by God’s Word throughout the book.

Just My Size.  This book packs a punch is only 37 pages.  For a slow reader like myself, it was a refreshing change to provide valuable information in a book that didn’t take a while to read.

The Bad:

Do-it-yourself Design:  If you are into glossy pages, clever font, and perfectly structured chapters…keep moving along.  The book is very rudimentary in design, especially the pages within.  But if you are able to move past that, the value is in the words.

The Grade:  A.  Husbands, fathers, men…you need to pick this book up.  Sure, some of this may be review, but it needs reviewed.  Better yet, read it, then find someone you can mentor and give them this book.  Take them to Bob Evans a few times, get the Farmer’s breakfast, put some ketchup on those home fries…and build mighty men!

 

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Never Underestimate the Youth of Today…Here’s Why

stop_underestimating_yourself_tyrone_smith1Skepticism is not abnormal.  In fact, it puts you in some pretty hefty company in the Old Testament.  Among the doubters – Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, King Saul, Isaiah, Ezekiel…and the one that used his age as an excuse, Jeremiah.

Now, I will give it to Jeremiah – he was young.  In Jeremiah, the Hebrew usage of this word child in Jeremiah chapter one referred to boys or youths.  I read several commentaries – and since there is no age given – the estimations range from a young boy to age 21.

There could very well be skepticism in your families, in our schools, and in our churches.  It could be in the mind of children or teenagers.  These ideas could have been put there by other adults that couldn’t see their potential.  Or they may simply have little confidence or are underestimating the special ways God can use them.

Adults often underestimate children and teens as well.  They may excuse their skepticism by saying they are looking out for their feelings or safety.  Underestimating is sometimes a lack of faith or a failure to see the special gifts of the youth of today.  Don’t underestimate what children and teens can do for the kingdom of God.

Parents – we cannot doubt what God can do in our children’s lives and what can be accomplished through them.  Kids & Teens – listening here and online – God can do amazing things in your life…NOW!

Let me give you some examples of what kids can do:

Picture1Alexandra “Alex” Scott was only 4 years old when she opened her front yard lemonade stand to help raise money for children with cancer. A cancer patient herself, Alex has seen her small stand grow from a curbside staple to a national fundraising revolution, boasting supporters, benefits, and events all across the country.  Sadly, she passed away at the age of 8, but her foundation (Alex’s Lemonade Stand) lives on and has raised more than $120 million and funded over 550 research projects towards the goal of putting an end to childhood cancer.

Picture2Shortly after basketball enthusiast Austin Gutwein turned 9, he saw a video that changed his life: a movie about children who had lost their parents to AIDS. Moved to make a change, Gutwein began Hoops of Hope, the world’s largest free-throw marathon, dedicated to raising money for orphaned children from across the globe and providing them with food, shelter, education, and health care. By doing something as simple as shooting free throws, Hoops of Hope participants have raised over $2.5 million.

Picture3It all started when a 9-year-old saw another student on the playground without a coat.  Since then, Maddy Beckmann made it her mission to keep kids warm in her native St. Louis, and her charity, Coat-A-Kid has coated over 10,000 children since its inception.

Why can’t our children and teens do that in our church, our community, and our country…they can and they are!  In our church, this is what has been happening because we have learned to not underestimate our youth:

Over 200 kids came to the Easter Egg Hunt to hear the Gospel & eat loads of candy…and the entire event was planned by teenagers.  Over 40 meals were delivered last October…by teens.  Two Bible studies were formed in the public schools…and were started by a 13-year-old and 15-year-old.  A community garden was planted in the local middle school…by teenagers.  2 years ago 3 teens were serving impoverished kids in Nicaragua  This summer, a team of teenagers are going to witness on the streets of New York.

Sorry Jeremiah, age is NOT an excuse.  God does not want to hear the excuses…He wants obedience.

(If you want to hear the entire message on “The Time is Now” click here)

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