America’s Pastor Was My Pastor Too

Billy Graham, known as “America’s Pastor” for his years of advising our Presidents and for his incredible ministry both in the United States and around the world.  Countless believers can trace the start of their relationship with Christ at one of his rallies.  He is an incredible spiritual figure in Christian heritage, especially in recent memory.

My shoulders slump as I think of how I never got to meet Billy Graham.  On this side of heaven, I will never get to shake his hand and thank him for his influence on my life.

He’ll never know what his testimony would teach me.  His rules of making sure to not meet with a woman alone, and to always live above reproach.  His integrity that lasted until he took his final breath.  That’s the type of legacy and example that young man in the ministry needs.

He’ll never know that as a very young pastor, nervous on a Saturday night about taking the pulpit in the morning, I would watch Billy Graham preach.  It was like Knute Rockne or Herb Brooks walked into my family room and gave me a spiritual rallying cry.  After listening to him, I was absolutely pumped to deliver God’s precious Word in just a few short hours.

He’ll never know my first son has a middle name Graham, named after the man I admired from afar for all these years.  My boy will learn what a great man he was and all he did for the Kingdom of God.

He’ll never know I got a shelf with his books on them.  No it’s not a shrine.  It’s a reminder of one of my mentors, who was able to disciple me from the television, through his writings, and by his example.

So thank you Reverend Billy Graham.  One day I will have the chance to tell you thank you.  Until then, your sermons, your books, and your example will continue to teach this young student.

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Which is Better: The Creator or The Creation?

I remember when I learned that Jesus was there at creation – my mind was blownYou understand why there are plural pronouns in the creation account in Gen. 1:26You see it clearly in John 1 that Jesus was a big part of the start of this worldColossians 1:16 becomes like a bright and shining star.  And in, Hebrews 1:2 it is pretty clear I was missing out on something special.  Jesus was THERE before creation, during creation, and will be there after the created world perishes

Every year at Thanksgiving – my wife hopes that I will show up in a different sweater.  But the last 10 years, I have worn the same sweater.  Each year, I faithfully wear that brown & orange argyle piece of art.  To my wife, it makes little sense to show up in that ugly, old, and tattered the sweater year after year.  With the choice of a new sweater vs. one that by most accounts is hideous, it should be an easy choice.

In Hebrews 1:10-12, we find a comparison of the Creator (Jesus) vs. Creation – after we review this, the choice should be easy…

CREATOR (JESUS) CREATION
Creator Created
Unchanged Grow Older
Eternal Death
Just the Beginning End is Near

Do me a favor and look at these lists.  Which do you want to follow?  Which list do you want to be a part of?  Which list wins?  Which list is better?

It’s an easy choice.  You’d rather have the creator, unchangeable, eternal, and beginning of an incredible future…instead of an old, headed for death, ending soon creation. Easy choice?  Then why do we constantly make the wrong choice.  We choose creation all the time over the Creator.  We choose the ugly, wrinkled, old sweater…We choose money over the joy of giving. We choose lust, pride, and anger over purity, humility & grace.  We choose to love the things of this world instead of putting our treasures in heaven. We choose wrong all the time – and we put a list like this, side by side, and puts our hearts to shame.

It’s an easy choice…that we make WAY too hard.  When we get the creature (US) and the creator (Jesus) mixed up…our life gets messed up.  We do things on our own – w/out the counsel of Scripture.  We rely on our own strength and we fail in our weakness – it’s why we ARGUE (our way seems beset), why we FIGHT (our way was violated) and why we GET DOWN (our way wasn’t chosen).

I can remember in high school.  We had soccer practice in the rain, and to end practice we decided to slide through the mud.  I thought it was a good idea…until I got home.  My mom, and rightfully so, would not let me in the house.  You’ve been there – your mom looked at your clothes and said “Yeah that stain’s not coming out.”  The shirt gets rolled up and tossed…she says “Go take a shower and change into something new”.

This world we live in – it’s like those clothes.  It’s dirty.  It’s full of sin.  Just turn on the news for 5 seconds and you are reminded we live in a fallen world.  Sin has tainted its beauty and innocence that were part of it during creation week, only to be robbed of its purity in the Garden.

But Jesus – one day will roll it up, toss it aside and lay out a new one…without the dirt, the pain, the suffering…everything will be made new.  What a day that will be.

(You can listen to the entire sermon here – click on 1/28/2018 sermon)

 

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2017 Goals – Re-visited

When we turn the page on the calendar, we often do not look back at the goals of the year before.  If you’re like me, you are always looking forward.  It is important to take a moment to see how well you did in the goals you set.  Because what good are goals is they are set and never met.  Here’s a look at how last year’s goals went, to celebrate some victories but also discuss some obstacles you may face.

  • New Book! –  Blessing to announce my 1st book has been published and my goal is for 1,000 copies to be sold to help people fall in love with God’s Word.
    • Grade:  C.  Got about halfway to my goal this year.  While that’s a little disappointing, how God has used the book is not.  The book is now in the hands of missionaries across the world, youth groups across the country, and in the homes of dear families I care about.  Even in defeat, that is an incredible victory.  Feel free to check it out at http://www.bottomlinedevotional.com
  • New Curriculum Plan! – Hard to believe this is my 6th year ministering at MBC, which mean a new 6 year plan will be put in place—with the input of parents, students, and research this plan will be implemented in the fall of 2017.
    • Grade:  A.  Mission accomplished.  With the help of parents, leaders, & students, I was able to produce a sparkling new 6 year curriculum to allow parents to see a plan is in place for their teenager in every year of youth ministry.
  • Mentoring – Teach a 2 week Mentoring series to encourage mentoring of generations within the church.
    • Grade:  B-.  Sure, the class went well and had great interaction.  However, it’s been a slow process to see this culture happen within the church.  Have I seen some growth?  Absolutely.  But i would love for more to catch the mentoring bug.
  • Short Term Mission Trip – Due to monthly local mission project, the 3 year cycle is now work trip, out-of-state, international trip. This year we will be traveling for our work trip.
    • Grade:  A.  What a great week.  God provided for us to go work at a camp in New York.  The teens worked hard, grew in their walk with Christ, and found it a positive time of unity and service.
  • Life After High School Series—Special speakers to speak on after high school temptations like drugs, how to witness after high school, and leader advice for the young adult years.
    • Grade:  A.  One of my all-time favorite student ministry series.  You can check it out in detail here.
  • Public School Partnership – Continue to find ways to partner with local schools to serve them and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to students.
    • Grade:  B-.  While we have been able to have a steady presence at the high school, we have seen limited growth.  And the middle school partnership has not materialized.  Praying God will open doors and I’d be bold enough to walk through the opening.
  • Social Media Interaction – Bolster ministry social media footprint with student leadership help and more interaction on Facebook.
    • Grade:  B+.  Assigned a student as the social media coordinator, and seen an improvement in interaction.  Still working on ways to make this even more interactive.
  • Implement G.R.O.W.T.H Chart– Encourage parents to follow chart of spiritual growth for their students and provide training and help for students to reach these spiritual goals.
    • Grade:  B.  Through parent/pastor conferences, this has come a little more alive.  Still could use more improvement, but a step in the right direction.

Well, I passed 2017.  Maybe not on the honor roll this year, but God certainly blessed, and I praise Him for all the victories and lessons He has taught me along the way.

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2018 Youth Ministry Goals

  • Continue Parent/Pastor Conferences—Saw great value in the initial meetings, and need to find more opportunities and follow-up to the meetings.
  • Pre-Marital Counseling—With another wedding under my belt, I’d like to gain better traction and organize my pre-marital counseling material from past & present.
  • International Trip—Goal in taking an inter-generational foreign mission trip in the summer of 2019 to teach cross-cultural missions & importance of evangelism across the world.
  • World Religions Series—With the rise of different religions in our country, I see a need to teach on the various religions and how Christians can bring them truth.
  • Winter Retreat—Special trip to Lake Ann to hear their youth pastor speak! What a great unity opportunity and growing experience for us all.
  • Expansion of Elderly Ministry—Continue Young at Heart lunch, but expand it to ministry to shut-ins as well.
  • Local Mission Trip—It has been a few years since we done a localized mission trip. To prepare for next year, this could be the year to minister to our local parks.
  • Children’s Safety Policy Improvement—Unfortunate we have to, but a necessity nonetheless. Continued improvement in keeping our kids safe, and working with the children’s ministry department to find a policy that is effective and able to be accomplished.
  • Audio-Books.  Why didn’t I think of this sooner?  I am such a slow reader.  My biggest regret of college is not taking that speed-reading course they offered.  It’s time to learn on the move.

 

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Partnering with Parents

Some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way in partnering with parents.  Hope you find this podcast helpful in your student ministry.

https://lcm.wol.org/multiply/partnering-parents-jeff-beckley/

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Youth Curriculum Review Series – Life After High School

Series:  “Life After High School”

Synopsis:  This was one of my all-time favorite series I have done with my students.  After all, what are you preparing your teens to do?  Face life after high school with a Biblical worldview, a heart for the lost, and a desire to live a life as a servant to the King.  This series got down to business of what life will be like after high school.  We discussed money, relationships, careers, temptations…we talked about REAL LIFE.

Special Features:  We brought in special speakers from programs like “5 Minutes for Life”.  Other special speakers included missionaries that spoke on their high school experience and a panel of youth leaders that answered questions about life after high school.  At the end, we brought in parents to help us with the “Real Life Experience”, where the students went through a graduation ceremony and went out into the real world.  It was all pretend, but we put them through college admission and job interviews, budget training, and even gave them jobs to complete.

Curriculum:

God’s Will:  How to Find It and Know it by Positive Action for Christ

This was the exact topic that I wanted to be the foundation of my talks.  At the heart of everything we discussed, we kept coming back to the idea of God’s will.  What is God’s will in your career?  Your relationships?  Your future?  This book is a basic framework that will help you find footing in this foundation and provide solid Biblical support for your discussion.  You will need to supplement and add to the material, but this less-known resource acted as a great resource through this series.

Senior:  Preparing for the Future by Lars Rood

Set up as a devotional for seniors transitioning into adulthood, the table of contents became my best friend with to use this as a curriculum resource.  Once I outlined my messages, I was able to take valuable nuggets of information with each small devotional.  This book was especially helpful in the conclusion and takeaway of the messages.  It provided dynamite discussion questions that added to the final moments of each series topic.

My Future by Mark Oestreicher & Scott Rubin

Our ministry context comprises of junior high and high school on Sunday nights.  That being said, I needed a resource that would add an element for the younger student.  They are not thinking too far ahead, but they should be. This topical resource allows the teacher to engage the student from the youngest age to the oldest.  These authors were spot on with the topics that needed discussed with students regarding their future.  This was another valuable resource for this series.

Bonus Video Suggestion:

Doing the Stuff – by John Wimber

 

 

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7 Reasons to be Thankful in Youth Ministry

What does a youth worker have to be thankful for?  Here’s just a start to the list.

7 Reasons To Be Thankful Youth Ministry  

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Book Review: Gaining by Losing

Book Review:  Gaining by Losing by J.D. Greear

The Good:

I’ve Got a Story for You.  Where does he find these illustrations?  These are stories that seem to come from the deep annals of history, but are so very effective.  Remarkable stories that I should have heard before, but are extraordinary and unique to the reader that introduces chapters masterfully.

Fresh & Biblical.  Possibly what stands out the most in terms of his writing style is Greear’s ability to take a familiar text and draw out fresh, practical ideas.  In so doing, he is able to stay true and Biblical, but still drive the point in fresh, powerful ways.

Fearless.  This man is fearless.  Sure, he admits times in the book where his faith was weak.  But his faith stood the test and was fearless in his pursuit to plant churches and spread the Gospel.  Honestly, it is as much inspirational as it is practical.

Gospel Living.  This man believes in the power of the Gospel.  It is a lifestyle, not a belief you put on your shelf and pull it out when you feel like perusing it’s pages.  Gospel is central, and may be the best articulation of the practical aspects of living out the Gospel.

The Bad:

Buckle Up.  More a warning than a “bad” review.  Get ready to move in a direction that you ordinarily would fear.  Don’t be surprised if you are inspired to do something great for God as a result of this book’s encouragement.

The Grade:  A+.  EVERY church leader should read this book.  It takes you to a new level of faith leadership.  What I mean by that is, it forces you to face your fears in ministry and pushes you to make that step of faith in your ministry.  The pages are full of inspiration, practical methods, and challenges to make each page turn an exciting adventure.  As William Carey said, “Expect great things of God, and then attempt great things for God!”  This book will help you get there.

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10 Lessons Learned from 10 Years in Ministry

Hard to believe…10 years of Youth Ministry.  Praise the Lord for his grace, for the patience of teens and their parents, and the countless times God has brought strength to my weakness.

And get this…my article on the 10 Lessons Learned from 10 Years in Ministry has been published by Youth Specialties.  Go check it out and be encouraged.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE.

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6 Tips to Build a Student Leadership Team

In recent years, I have found great value in having a student leadership team.  It’s not cliché, its true…Jesus spent additional time with a group of men to give them individual attention and help them reach their potential to start the early church.  In these student leadership teams, the goals are on a much smaller scaled compared to Jesus and His disciples, but the goal still remains to help them reach their spiritual potential and to be the next generation of leaders in the church.  Here’s some tips that have helped make the student leadership team a reality.

Ain’t No Such Thing as Small Potatoes.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  The first year I hosted a leadership team, there were only 2 participants.  Small is not always a bad thing.  Individual attention was given.  Questions were answered.  Real progress was accomplished in this small group.

Where do is sign?  Please make sure to have an application process.  You can’t just have a sign up list on the side of the youth room, and hope each person becomes a leader.  Have some requirements right off the bat like an application, and even an interview.  The requirement of the student leadership will be lofty, so the application process should not be just putting your name on a piece of paper.

Little Help Over Here.  Don’t be afraid to go find some help with leadership training.   May I make a suggestion?  The good people at LeaderTreks, particularly the 365 Leadership Training, is a great place to start.  Additionally, I scour the Christian leadership blogs, often sent to me by ChurchLeaders, and use the blogs as an opener to each of our meeting.

Thank You For Coming…Now What?  In addition to the leadership training curriculum and leadership articles, the key part of leadership training is the concept of “level above”.  It is a requirement for each participant to serve in the church in some capacity.  But that’s not enough to just serve in children’s ministry as a volunteer.  We take it a “level above” and require the student to teach or lead a portion of that children’s ministry.  If children’s ministry is not their thing, the requirement for volunteering in other areas of the church are go a “level above”.  We discuss each person’s individual assignments at the beginning of each meeting.

Put Them in the Game, Coach.  Part of training leaders is to give them opportunities to lead.  Sounds simple, but it takes some steps of faith, patience, and willingness to allow failure.  Sure, you could plan youth events easily by yourself.  But in leadership training, you must allow them to take the lead.  In the past, I’ve allowed students to plan events like the Christmas party, Super Bowl Party, and a Compassion International event.  But the doozy was the Easter Egg Hunt.  The teens were placed in charge, planned out the schedule, sought out volunteers, made phone calls, prepped the materials…it was their show.   Talk about a step of faith.  But let me tell ya, in the end, this was a valuable learning experience in leadership that was well worth the effort.

Personal & Prayerful.  Spend some time with them.  Ask for personal requests.  Invite them over for a lunch prior to the meeting so you can get to know the students.  Find ways to make the meeting time special so students want to come, and younger students have something they look forward to.

What do you do?  How have you built student leaders? 

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