Category Archives: Discipleship

Young People Need You

Think back to that person that invested in you.  Where would you be without those late night conversations, the advice over a milkshake, or the shoulder to cry on.

Take this man named Myron.  An ordinary guy who decided to invest in the next generation.  And now, while in the midst of a difficult time, he is reaping the reward of all those hours spent helping young people.

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My Top Two Mentoring Videos

Mentoring is a process that comes with a lot of meat on the bone.  It can be overwhelming to know where to begin and how this mentoring thing works.  Well, these two videos are a great place to start.  One is how to find a mentor, and the other is how to be a mentor…

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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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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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Book Review: Multiply by Francis Chan

Book Review: Multiply by Francis Chan

The Good:31Tm11DrPAL

Reading and Doing. With the application questions at the end of each completed thought, the book promotes life change. It allows the reader to interact with the material for not only greater understanding, but also provides an introspective look at their personal life.

Challenging. Reading God’s Word, sharing the Gospel, and discipleship are not optional in the life of a believer. Chan does an incredible job of challenging the reader, without disgracing or manipulating Scripture. The Bible interweaves throughout its pages effectively and reaches the heart of the reader.

Great for New Believer. For a new believer, young believer, or one lacking in Biblical knowledge, this book would be most beneficial. Chan provides an easy-to-understand Bible survey where a beginner believer could follow along, but still provides depth for any reader. It provides the reader with a great ride from Genesis to Revelation, taking necessary stops to allow for understanding and clarity.

Promotes the Church. As a pastor, I appreciated the elevation of the church in the latter part of the book. As the Bride of Christ, the church should be treated such, and this book does a masterful job of describing the early church and challenges the present church to step up.

The Bad:

Not What I Expected. Honestly, I was expecting a book on discipleship and multiplication of the church through making disciples. Little did I know that this book would primarily be a Bible survey. Although it was presented very well, it caught me off guard, and I walked away a little disappointed. So there’s your spoiler, but will help you enjoy the read more than I did.

The Grade: B

As I stated before, if I knew what this book was all about, I may have graded it higher. However, expecting more training on discipleship, I was a little disappointed. However, the presentation of the Bible, and weaving in and out of God’s Word made for an interesting, enlightening, and challenging read. Again, if you are a new believer and want a better understanding of the first page to the last of your Bible, this book is a strong suggestion for you. Otherwise, it was good review, with enough depth that you will still learn.

 

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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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What Happens When You Turn 30…

This past year, it’s true, I turned 30.  And for the 3 or 4 of you that actually read this blog, I know my secret is safe with you.  Turning 30 is pretty important.  It’s not because you get your driver’s license, or you can get in any movie you want, or you can rent a car (which I believe is 25, kind of a weird rule).  It’s something much more spiritual, monumental, and reflective…30zone

30 years old.  Wow.  Some may call it young.  Some may call it old (Like my students.  One of which asked me about the 70’s…he was serious, and I was serious when I told him I was born in 1982).  Nevertheless, turning 30 is significant if you are a student of Scripture.  You see, according to Luke 3:23, Jesus was 30 when he began his public, earthly ministry.  It was the year the Messiah started his ministry career, gathered 11 young men and Peter for discipleship, and began teaching, healing, and doing miracles.  The Christ was about to make His name known, all the while knowing, that in 3 years’ time, He would willingly give His life, and completely transform the world.

Now you see why it is signficant?  Now, I certainly have very few things in common with the perfect Savior.  But turning 30 is something we both have in common.  Sure, it’s a small straw to hold on to, but it does cause one to reflect how much my life resembles the Savior’s at 30.  Here are some things that come to mind:

  1. Follow Me?  Christ began to assemble 12 disciples that he mentored, challenged, and developed spiritually.  These were the men (sans Judas) that would eventually establish the early church.  Am I taking the time to disciple the younger generation?  Do I realize these are the young men that will be the next generation of the Church?
  2. An Ounce of Teaching.  Never could I ever approach the skill, the duality of simplicity and depth, the sensitivity, and the insight of the master teacher.  However, that doesn’t mean I can’t try to improve my craft of teaching and preaching.  Some goals I have is to read books like Excellence in Preaching, Speaking to Teenagers, and Hearing God’s Word:  Expositional Preaching.  Eventually, I’d like to take some homiletic courses.  In the meantime, I make it a point to glean knowledge from veteran preachers like my senior pastor, and listen to other skilled communicators at least once a week.
  3. More Public.  My risk is nowhere near the risk of Jesus’ public ministry.  Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, the anointed one that the Jewish nation had been waiting on for hundreds of years.  However, it’s still time my ministry becomes more public.  That means being a witness more often, recognizing needs of my neighbors and community, and not shying away from gospel sharing opportunities.

Sure, I’ll never perform miracles at weddings this year, raise someone from the dead, and probably won’t be preaching from a boat anytime soon…but I can still make my earthly ministry significant, and after turning 30, there’s no better time.

 

 

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Evangelism & Discipleship – Is it really both?

I love to fish.  For me, the best part is the jolt of the fish attacking the bait and reeling that sucker in to see how big it is…so I can be sure to add a few inches in my fish story.  Catching the fish is fun, but reeling in the fish is a huge part of it.  That’s how I feel about evangelism & discipleship.  Evangelism is the jolt of the fish attacking the bait (not saying the Gospel is the bait), but is exciting that someone accepted God’s free gift.  But if you don’t disciple that new believer…it’s like just leaving that fish out there on the line…you’re missing a huge part of the experience!

Read these verses:  Matthew 28:19-20

Okay, now read them again and circle the first 2 verbs in that passage – Go & Make Disciples.  I think we often emphasize the Go part (and with good reason, we need to go and share the Gospel with others), but we also often forget to mention, implement, or dig into the difficult work of discipleship.

You see, discipleship takes time, it takes a great deal of effort, it takes patience, it takes spiritual maturity…are you still with me?  Discipleship is hard!  You may not even see the results until much later in life…anyone involved in youth ministry knows how true this can be.

We live in a world of instant gratification.  Minute rice, instant video download, fast lane on the freeway…there’s even instant underpants (just add water!).  But discipleship is just the opposite.  There isn’t instant gratification.  Sure, there will be victories and joys of Jesus coming and changing one’s life.  But there will be many battles of the old self, old life, and old habits.  Those will drain you, disappoint you, and want to defeat you.

But, take heart.  The time you spend in discipleship is worth it…Jesus chose 12 disciples…and 11 of those men set out to change the world.  Who knows what may happen if you choose someone to mentor & disciple.  Watch this video, and see what kind of impact you can have…you too can change a generation!

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Double Book Review: Visit the Sick & Impacting the Next Generation

Book:  Visit the Sick, by Brian Croft.Visit_the_sick

The Good.  I may surprise you with this statement, but I have never underlined more in a book than this little book.  I’m serious.  I learned so much about the ministry of visiting the sick.  Maybe it is because this does not come naturally to me.  Maybe you go to a hospital, and it is your element.  It doesn’t matter if it is a heart attack or a broken leg, you know what to do, what Scripture to read, and what to say in your prayer.  Or maybe you are more like me, and you could use some help in these areas.  Well, this book goes above and beyond the call of duty to help you visit the sick.

The Bad.  The only thing this book is missing is a CD where you can print off the appendix materials.  Or maybe a small printable bookmark/pamphlet you could put inside your Bible to help with visiting the sick.

The Grade:  A+.  That’s right, a perfect grade.  Maybe because it was just what the doctor ordered (get it?).  But mostly because it provides a perfect balance of practical and Biblical advice on how to visit the sick.  Every pastor should read this book.  As a youth pastor, I don’t have as many hospital visits as other pastors, but when I do, I want to have an impact on a hurting individual, I want to bring the gospel to room 221, I want to lift up someone’s broken spirit…well, I learned “I” can’t do those things.  But God can through me, and this book will help you accomplish those things.

 

Book:  Impacting the Next Generation, by Mel Walker.impactingthenextgeneration

The Good.  Where was this book 6 years ago when I started in youth ministry?  Seriously.  These are lessons I had to learn the hard way.  I found myself saying “Now you tell me” many times as I read.  Not your fault Mel!  But realy, this book provides practical ways to truly impacting young people in the short time you have them in your ministry.  Another good is each point is taken directly from Scripture.  I’m a big proponent of the line of thinking – if you are going to convince me to implement something in the ministry I serve, it better be supported in God’s Word.  And each point had that backing.  Well done.

The Bad.  I’m the kind of guy that enjoys personal stories.  There was some ministry stories within the book, but would have enjoyed more.  The 2 Timothy 2:22 principles were repeated several times, and could  have been consolidated in one section…but maybe that was the author’s point – that this verse is pretty important.

The Grade:  A.  Like Staples has an easy button, I needed an “Amen” button for this book.  This is how I do or want to do youth ministry.  I loved the points and was totally on board with the practical applications of Scripture.  In my opinion, this must be in the hands of every youth pastor, especially those beginning their first ministry.

**Special Note from the Author Mel Walker:  If any of your readers would like a copy of “Impacting the Next Generation” – they can get copies from me for only $5. Take a look at: http://www.intergenerationalyouthministry.com.

 

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5 Questions to Ask After a Break-Up

When counseling a teenager about a break-up, there are some key questions to ask.  Before getting to those, there is one thing to remember.  You may not think it is a big deal, but to them IT IS a big deal.  So treat it like the big deal it is, and try to remember when you were a teenager and how much it hurts when someone broke up or rejected you.  That should raise your empathy level to where it needs to be.

Here are the “5 Questions to Ask a Teenager After a Breakup”:

  1. How are you doing?  May seem like a simple question, but if it is meant and felt, it should break the ice when they know you care.
  2. What hurts the most?  This will help get a little deeper and help you know what to counsel.breaking-up
  3. What emotion do you experience the most?  Anger?  Depression?  Pain?  Each of these emotions have spiritual answers or spiritual passages that can help.  Narrowing down your search will help you know where to steer them in God’s Word.
  4. How has your relationship with God been in the last 7 days?  (How has God fit in your healing process?)  Don’t let this be an excuse to find rebellion, let it be an excuse to bring them closer to God.
  5. What can you learn from this?  It is pointless for this young person to go through hardship if you can’t learn from it.  Whether it is an attitude change, response to difficulty, spiritual growth…let this be something God can use to change you for the better…because you either get BITTER OR BETTER!
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