Monthly Archives: September 2015

Why You Should Teach Theology To Teenagers

PosterTheology to teenagers? Are you sure? We are already seeing teenagers leave the church, aren’t you just going to add to the problem by teaching doctrine and a whole bunch of topics that end in –ology?

Actually it is quite the opposite. Teenagers need a foundation. They need to know the basic doctrines of the Bible in order to properly understand the rest of the pages written by God.

There is a reason that Genesis chapter 1, the very beginning of the Bible, begins with “In the beginning God”. God is the beginning to all knowledge, to all things spiritual. He is the answer to life’s important questions.

If anything, theology should be a place where we begin, not a place we fear to step. Do not underestimate what your students can learn. Do not overestimate what your students know now…

In fact, below is a simple theological survey, with the results from my youth ministry. Feel free to use it and maybe you will see the need to teach theology. Or it may point to specific doctrinal issues that you need to address. Feel free to share how it goes…

Survey Results PDF

 

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In Search of a Mentor, I Found of Love & Family

I needed help. I needed a mentor. I needed discipleship. Let me start off by saying this…I had the blessing of growing up with two devoted Christ-followers as parents. They led me to salvation, brought me to church, loved me, and cared for me with selflessness and unconditional love. But, a good parent understands that their child needs more than just themselves to continue to grow. When other adults take a spiritual interest in a young person, that additional support goes a long way in their spiritual development. And I had the blessing to have many mentors and adult support (youth pastor, pastors, teachers, youth leaders, and the list goes on) willing to disciple me…I probably needed more than most to get me going in the right direction.

1545973_10155682313840246_5840232825176079849_nBut one particular couple stands out. They had 5 children of their own, so I look back now and am amazed they had so much time to help me. The husband, a sharp man, was never afraid to tell me the truth, and providing sound Biblical advice. The wife was so caring, kind-hearted, and full of grace. You could call them a couple with truth and grace.

When my mom passed away, they constantly opened their home, fed me loaded nachos, and played games with me. They provided a home away from home when I was really hurting. The wife would provide me advice that I needed from a mom including “don’t be kissing till you have a ring”, and filled my belly with additional snacks that I also needed from a mom. The dad would scream laugh at my jokes, listen intently to my stories from the golf course, and be a sounding board for my career aspirations.

But one day stands out. My mom had just passed away in early May, and I needed a suit for my high school graduation. I had no clue. I never had owned a suit in my life, and didn’t know the first place to look. So I asked if this couple would meet me at the mall and give this sad kid some fashion direction. I needed a mom to stop me from picking a leisure suit, and guide me in the right direction.

11800259_10155808635090246_1847206222024109969_nWe met at JCPenney. This couple helped me pick out a solid black suit. A suit I wore to my graduation from high school. A suit I wore to my graduation from college and seminary. It also became the suit that I wore on my first date with their daughter…I think you know where this is going.

This couple was always like a second father and mother to me. Now, they truly are. I fell in love with their daughter after that first date. (And no, I didn’t kiss her until she had the ring!) The mentoring and discipleship that I received in high school, still continues to this day. My father-in- law continued to disciple me as I became the primary caretaker of his daughter, just 5 years after they helped me purchase my first suit.

IMG_290215 years later, they gave me money for my birthday. And after 15 years, I needed a new suit (the wife/mother-in-law’s daughter also makes a really good loaded nacho – hence needing a new suit).   So with the birthday money, I decided to go to JCPenney with my wife and kids, and purchase a new solid black suit. It reminded me of that special day, and the many other days this couple disciple me patiently to help me become a better follower of Jesus.

So, pastors, youth leaders, parents, teachers, friends…what does a mentor look like? What does discipleship look like? It looks a lot like life. A mentor is someone that is willing to sacrifice their time and energy to provide godly wisdom to everyday life. Sure, this couple may have had 300 other things to do that day, but they knew I needed help for an important day. And there had to be times they wanted a quiet night when I rang the doorbell, but the nachos and “take two” game were ready for me every time without a complaint. Life and time. You put those two things together under the precious wisdom of God’s Word, you have discipleship.

Take time to be a mentor. Take time to disciple a younger person, or a younger believer. Treat them like family, because one day they just might be.

 

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How to Make the Opening Night of Youth Group Awesome

The Opening night of youth group sets the tone for the rest of your year. It isn’t a deal breaker for a teen, but it does factor into their decision to come back. So what are some things you can put into your opening night that would make it awesome, special, and worthy to repeat a visit. Here are some thoughts:

static1.squarespace.comBig Game. Plan ahead to have a big game or special icebreaker to make it a unique night. I’ve heard of youth groups that do a huge food fight. I haven’t been so brave but have done the BeanBoozled Jelly Bean Challenge, Blind Volleyball, and have even tried the Watermelon Challenge this year. This was last night.

Introduce New Series. This is the perfect opportunity to get the excitement level up for the new teaching series. Show an intro video that goes along with the theme. Other ways to promote can be done through skits and homemade video productions.

Rules. This needs to be part of your routine each year. Go over rules for conduct, dress, treatment of others, and various rules that you can refer back to if there ever is an issue. Prevention is much better than confrontation.

Give-Away. This does not need to be an XBOX or THIS…but a gift card and some things around your office like candy and leftover gifts from a youth conference.  I put it all in a box and do a drawing.  It makes it more dramatic.

Time in the Word.  I made the mistake one year of not doing any time in the Word, and made it all fun and games.  Well, when some visitors came back, guess what they expected youth group to be like?  That’s right, all fun and games.  Make sure you are clear what the focus is, and that is to help these students grow in their relationship with God.

Sign-Ups For Service.  Having trouble finding volunteers for ministries?  Here is an opportunity to have sign ups for children ministries, sound team, ushers, game crew, and the list goes on.

New People.  Have a dessert or cake to celebrate the new 6th or 7th graders that have just joined your group.  This will allow them to feel welcome and hopefully want to come back.

Introduce the Leaders.  We take a few moments to recognize the leaders, celebrate the years they have been serving, and explain what they will be doing – small group leader, event leader, etc.  Also, this is an opportunity to share how much we care about them, and to let them know we are available if they ever needed to talk.

Well, those are a few highlights of our opening night.  What do you do to make your opening night special and awesome?  Feel free to comment.

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I Witnessed Racism and This Was My Response

During the summer holidays, the family tradition is for the guys to head out for a morning tee time. So, this past Labor Day, myself, my father-in-law, and two brother-in-laws began our round, just like we had countless times before. But, little did we know, this day would be different. There would be moment where it suddenly became less about wedges and birdies, but was about whites and blacks. It became less about racing around a golf course, and more about race relations on a golf course.
We had just finished the first 10 holes, and the sun was beginning to beat down. It was hot, sticky, but our group was having a great time. Talking about our jobs, families, and of course giving each other a hard time for good measure. But those laughs, those catching-up stories came to a screeching halt on the 11th hole.
Two holes ahead of us, there was a group of older black men, that most likely were doing the same thing we were doing…spending a holiday doing something they enjoy with their friends and family. This particular course we were playing bordered a fairly busy road, and the back nine had several holes that were a short wedge away from the road. If you have golfed on a course like this, it’s normal for some yahoo to honk their horn or try to scream in your back-swing every once in a while. But this time it was different.
As our group headed towards our green, about 100 yards in front of us, a car slowed down and began screaming at the group of black men. But this was no ordinary jokester. No, this was a car that was full of hate and vitriol. At the top of their lungs, they yelled expletives, vulgar language, and even the N-word. I’m not naive. I realize this happens in America, but I don’t remember seeing it happen right in front of me. It stopped me in my tracks. Most golfers on that course may have just moved on, but I couldn’t.
Growing up, my parents taught me to treat people with love and respect. More importantly, my God has taught me in his Word how to love my neighbor. When I was a kid, one of my best friends was my neighbor. He was a big black kid, and I was a very small white kid. He was my friend. He was also my protector. One day, a group of kids, including my friend and I, were playing on the play set in my backyard. Well, one kid didn’t like me getting on the slide before he did, so he punched me. My friend (did I mention he was big) decided it was time for this other kid to not be on the play set anymore, and he threw him off. That kid didn’t come back anymore.
I mention this story, because as I thought of these men who were verbally attacked, I thought of my friend. Sure, I couldn’t protect them like my friend did for me, but I had to do something. I felt for these guys. And as we passed each other on the next hole, my heart was telling me to say something.
So I went up to one of the men in their group. I said, “Hey man, was your group yelled at back there”. He responded in a disappointed tone, “yes it was”. I told him “That ain’t right. I didn’t have anything to do with that, but I just wanted to say I’m sorry”. His response, “We just said as a group, they must have some sort of issue, and we just dropped it.” I said “Well, that’s not we all feel. It’s a very small percentage…” He said as we parted our ways, “There are many that make up our world, and we know it’s people like you and me…that’s what make the difference”. He shook my hand, said he appreciated me coming over, and we went back to our golf game.racism
My point of this article is not to add fuel to the fire, or to make a political statement.  This is less about a racist, and more about love.  My point is this man taught me love, forgiveness, and grace in just one sentence. I learned the importance of loving your neighbor. I was reminded of Jesus, who, when he looked at the crowds would look with compassion. That man said that I made a difference in our conversation. When was the last time I just took 10 seconds out of my day to make an impact on someone’s life? I’m often selfish with my time, energy, and even my compassion. These are things God has given me that I can give away for free.
Make a difference. Have the compassion of Jesus in a world where love is often missing. As the man said, “It’s people like you and me…that’s what makes the difference”. God has called His children to spread His love and Good News message…are you?