Monthly Archives: August 2013

10 Keys to a Successful Student Mission Trip

Something you will hear me say often in reference to short-term mission trips (Barna research has my back on this one), “There is no lessonGPS logo 2013 I can teach or event I can plan that can do what a short-term mission trip can do”.  What I mean by that is this, the spiritual life change, the comfort zone breakdown, and the transformation that I consistently see result from these trips…it is hard to reproduce, and it certainly should not be replaced in our youth ministries.

Over the years, God has given me the blessing of being able to lead trips to inner-cities (Chicago/New York), overseas (Barcelona, Spain & Ireland as a student), and more local trips like the mountains of Kentucky and the campgrounds of Scioto Hills.   These are some lessons I learned along the way:

  1. Preparation is Key.  What if a doctor never studied anatomy…what if a bungee jump operator didn’t learn to tie a knot…what if a hairdresser never went to cosmetology school….the answer, they would cause a lot of damage!  And same with mission trips.  If you don’t prepare well in advance, you may just cause more damage than good.
  2. Give Expectations Up Front.  This isn’t a come to the meetings when you feel like it experience.  Each potential team member goes through an interview & application process.  As part of the interview, the applicant is given, in detail, all the expectations of the trip, from behavior to training requirements and assignments.
  3. Train Them.  Soon, I will need to write a detailed list of the mission training, but here are some highlights:  read a book together (ex. Crazy Love, Do Hard Things), unity training (see #5), mission training (curriculum like Prepare.Go.Live), Personal Evangelism Training, Guest Speaker with Professional Training, Trip Presentation to Church, Group Practices (Drama, Crafts, etc.), and accountability (see #4) to name a few.
  4. Keep Them Accountable.  They know the expectations (see #2), so keep them accountable.  Each time we meet for training, the team is asked about their church attendance, daily time with God, homework, and team responsibilities.  Sure, they miss every once in a while, but if it happens twice in a row, the student in warned, and extra assignments follow.  If it continues, a meeting the parents and possible dismissal from the team.  Behavior can also be a means of dismissal as well.
  5. Work on Unity Early.  You may thing unity exercises are silly, but you will thank yourself later if you start them early and often.  The transformation I saw from the first time we did the exercises to the last day, it honestly gave me goose bumps to see the difference.  It was because we worked at it.
  6. Open Their Gifts.  Something we do during training is a spiritual gift inventory and assessment.  Following that, I give each student responsibilities based on their gifts.  Ranging from team encourager to teaching team, each team is given responsibilities, but because their jobs are connected to their spiritual gifts, it allows them to have a better chance of success, and less chance of frustration.
  7. Raise the Ante.  One year I walked out on a limb and had students be in charge of certain groups and given leader responsibilities, such as drama leader or music leader.  Sure, I gave them guidance in the process, but I raised the bar in the preparation process, and boy did it pay off!  I saw some amazing leadership growth in those students.
  8. Never Underestimate a Teenager.  I can remember a shy 9th grader coming into my youth group.  He usually sat quietly during events & lessons, saying very little.  Well, as the years went by he began to grow, but still had a quiet, shy nature.  During his senior year, he signed up for the mission trip to Spain.  He was the sound/media leader, which fit his personality.  But, I felt he needed more, so I gave him the task of learning a magic trick for the park presentation.  That same shy, quiet 9th grader, I got to see him do a magic trick in front of hundreds of people, and use that trick to share the Gospel.  NEVER underestimate a teenager…give them opportunities, and push them to new heights in their spiritual lives!
  9. Can I Get a Testimony?  Every year we do a wrap up service for the mission trip for our church.  It’s great, because many in the church gave towards the trip and were praying faithfully (Prayer cards with a team picture are a wonderful idea), and they want to hear all about the trip.  In the past I have asked if anyone would like to share their testimony of what God taught them.  This year, I decided to have every member of the team, including leaders, give their testimony.  Man was that powerful!  Sure, there were some that were extremely terrified, but the audience, especially parents, was extremely grateful.  (Next week’s blog – How to Plan a Mission Trip Testimony Service)
  10. Life Transformation.  As I mentioned in the intro, there has not been a trip that has gone by that I have not seen at least one student’s spiritual life dramatically change as a result of the trip.  There has been dramatic change (not just a mountain experience either) that I have seen in students.  Students taking their summers to go back to the mission field we went to on the summer before or students saying they want to work at the mission we served at after college graduation.  What a blessing to see lives changed!  That makes the effort that goes into #1-9 worth it.

Special thanks to my youth pastor growing up who taught me many of these lessons early, so I didn’t have to learn the “hard way” all the time.  Love you PK!

 

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My Youth or Student Ministry Philosophy

This philosophy of ministry has come with learning some things the hard way, from valuable mentoring from veterans in the ministry, and reading many youth ministry books...but the most important factors in determining my philosophy of ministry…God’s leading (you will notice each point is supported with Scripture) and what developed true spiritual life change in teenagers.  After reading, would love to hear your reactions, and also what you have in your philosophy…always willing to learn from others.  Here is my philosophy of ministry:

philosophyYouth Ministry Philosophy

Spiritual Growth – REAL Faith

Colossians 1:23 – If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;

There is an epidemic of students graduating from High School and from the church. What will keep the students in the faith?  What will keep them interested, involved, and in the church?  The cure is the development of a faith that is grounded, settled, and not easily moved.  The goal of youth ministry should be to assist in the development of the student’s faith (notice it is the student’s faith, not their parents’ or pastor’s faith) to where the entrance into adult life, the arguments of secular professors, and the tragedies of life will have no affect on the student’s faith in their great God.

Evangelism

Romans 10:13-14 – For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.  How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

Every believer and follower of Jesus Christ has been called to reach the lost.  Youth ministry has a responsibility to enable, encourage, and exercise evangelism.  The largest mission field in the United States right now is on the high school campus.  There needs to be training for these students as they enter the battle.  These students need to be taught how evangelism works.  Evangelism is not something that comes easy to many students.  They need to be encouraged to share their faith with others and bring their friends to church.  Finally, the students need to have opportunities to exercise evangelism.  Whether this is through specific outreach events or mission trips, the students need to put their faith into action.

Assistant Coach

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

“The responsibility for raising spiritual champions, according to the Bible, belongs to the parents…the responsibility is squarely laid at the feet of the family.  This is not a job for specialists.  It is a job for parents.”  (George Barna, Revolutionary Parenting).

The goal of the youth pastor and his ministry team is to be an assistant coach to the head coaches, the parents.  It is the parents’ responsibility to raise the children, and the youth ministry should assist with that goal in various ways.  This assistance occurs through the teaching of God’s Word, spiritual counsel and encouragement, and prayer.

Alongside those essential spiritual actions, there are practical aspects that need to be brought to the table.  A good assistance coach will help in game planning, go to the coach when they see a player struggling or injured, and help inform the coach where they lack the knowledge.  Youth ministry is no different.  The youth ministry team should help the parents game plan.  In other words, they should help them develop the spiritual goals for their child and allow the programs and teachings to aid in reaching those goals.  Also, it is imperative for the youth ministry to go to the parents when a student is struggling spiritually.  There will be times when behavior is inappropriate, words throw up red flags, or things are said in small groups where the parents need to be made aware.  Then, the youth pastor can aid in the recovery process.  Lastly, there needs to be parent meetings that include youth culture updates, upcoming event information, discussion/advice from other parents and other essential communication that will act as support in the parenting process.  After all, it is the responsibility of the coach for the team’s behavior, but the assistant coach has a vested interest in the outcome of the game.

Discipleship/Mentorship/Relationship

Matthew 28:19-20 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

The Bible does not say to have many programs and hope disciples will result from each event.  While there are programs that are effective in that respect and reaching young people, youth ministry can easily miss the target.  One significant determining factor of young people leaving the church is relationships.  Recent research has supported this claim (Group Magazine, March/April 2010 & Essential Church, 37, 64-65).  Teens, sadly, will not remember each Bible study and Sunday School topic, but they will remember the times where a leader or pastor discipled them, mentored them, and built a relationship that helped them grow spiritually.  Discipleship, mentorship, and relationship are at the heart of youth ministry.  These methods are a replica of the ministry model that Jesus Christ established with his disciples.  If youth ministry focuses on the next big event and neglects the discipleship and mentoring that could be happening, it is simply spinning its wheels.  The youth ministry team must establish a plan of discipleship where the leaders are forming and building relationships where discipleship and mentorship can happen.

Equip/Service Training

Ephesians 4:12 – to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (ESV)

If there is no equipping the saints for ministry, the ministry can go only as far as the pastor.  Equipping should happen in multiple aspects of youth ministry.  In other words, the equipping should not stop at just the students, but should extend into church members, parents, and youth ministry staff/volunteers.  The students need to be trained and given opportunities to serve.  It should be a priority of the youth ministry team to help the student discover their spiritual gifts and talents that can be used to build up the church body and give God glory.  These students need to be connected in ministry within the church body, and not just participate in ministry exclusive to the youth ministry.

Similarly, the youth pastor should continually find ways where others can be trained in ministry, used in ministry, and can grow in their love to serve in ministry.  The youth pastor needs to see potential in the people around him and provide opportunities for service.  Also, the process should intertwine with the mentoring/discipleship process where those in ministries are consistently training and encouraging the next generation.

Worship Opportunity

Psalm 100:1-5 – Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

The youth ministry needs to be an environment where the Creator of the universe, the Almighty God, the Savior of all mankind can be worshiped.  Therefore, the music, teaching, conversations, social interaction, small group time, programs, and leadership team all need to advance and promote worship and not detract from it.  The youth pastor is responsible to maintain a spiritually healthy environment where reverence, respect, glory, and praise is given to the Father.

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Book Review: The 21 Day Dad’s Challenge

Book Review:  The 21 Day Dad’s Challenge by Carey Casey

21-day-main-image.ashxThe Good:  It was refreshing to have a new author for each challenge, bringing a new perspective on what is important in fatherhood.  Each unique look provided a new challenge, from a different angle and background.  Honestly, that kept me going in the challenge, knowing there was a new author’s perspective around the corner.  The book does a good job of balancing Scripture with the principles laid out.  Also, the homework at the end of each chapter was very helpful, and allowed for the reader to have the proper takeaway for each chapter.  Finally, it was doable.  The challenge took about 15-20 minutes each night to both read and complete the homework.

The Bad:  Some of what I am going to say seems unfair, but here it is.  The multiple authors resulted in some repeating of information.  I know it’s not their fault, please stop yelling at me.  Also, it did not cater for the ages of my kids (very young) as well as I thought it might.  I had trouble with some of the homework assignments as a result of the ages of my kids.  Again, not the book’s fault.  Told you it was unfair.

Grade:  A-

Listen all you dads out there, I think you can spare 15 minutes a day to read a chapter of this book.  It is worth your time to do that in a 21 day period.  Challenge yourself to be a better dad.  This country is starving for some male leadership in the home, and you should be eagerly looking for books like this to challenge yourself and make you a better dad.  Do it for your kids.  Do it for the Lord.  And do it for your grandchildren that will have your children as parents.  This decision to read this book could affect many generations…not many books you could describe that way, huh?  So go take the challenge.

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