This past Sunday, I had the privilege of baptizing my baby girl. Well, she is seven (and a half, as she would say), so not so much a baby anymore. But being my first daughter, I often call her my baby girl. Baptizing my sweet little girl is an incredible perk of being a youth pastor, along with leftover pizza from youth nights. But just how special was this event in my daughter’s life?
Could I dare say that this day was even more special than my daughter’s wedding day? I believe so. And here’s why. When my daughter was baptized, she was telling everyone she wanted to follow Jesus, and be identified as a follower of Christ. If/When she gets married, while it will be a tremendously joyous occasion, she is telling everyone in that room she will be following her husband in her marriage. See the difference?
Let me break it down a little further here. My ultimate goal as a parent is not to prepare my daughter to marry a nice, godly man. Sure, I pray for that regularly, but my ultimate goal is to prepare my daughter for a life lived for her Savior, Jesus Christ. And seeing my daughter in that white robe committing herself to Jesus overshadows seeing my daughter in a white dress committing herself to a man.
And maybe I should say it like this. I want my kids to be more excited about Jesus than they are about anything. And I should reflect that to my children. So accepting Jesus Christ should be celebrated more than high school graduation. Being baptized and committing to follow Christ should be more precious than winning the high school championship in __________, you will in the blank. You get what I am saying here?
Maybe it is time we take our kids out to dinner to celebrate their spiritual birthdays. Or make sure to invite as many family members as you can to come to their baptism. Mission trips, Christian camps, and enriching conferences should have a place in our budget over cell phones, new shoes for school, and violin lessons. Our desire to get our kids ready to go to church, should resemble the fervor with which we scramble and drive like crazy people to get to work on time.
Sure, the title of this blog was a little bit of shock value. But maybe we need a little shock to the heart to bring our priorities back in order. After all, it was Jesus that said in Luke 9:23-25:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
Last week, I wrote a very convincing blog on why you should consider using curriculum. This week is a brief list of websites that will help you find the right curriculum. Even if you already using a year-long curriculum like XP3 or LIVE, you most likely have other teaching times. So, you inevitably have the daunting task of searching the internet for curriculum that will fit your topic, your teaching style, your group size…and the list goes on. Below is a list of websites that I have used in the past.
Quick tip: Open all websites, type in the topic or Book study in the search box provided, and compare the products found.
Youth Specialties. What is nice about Youth Specialties is explained in their organization’s name. They specialize in youth ministry material. Several of these other companies have a wider range of material, which does not make them any better or worse, but I feel Youth Specialties garners trust with their focused material on youth. You will not have to worry whether the material is designed for older or younger audiences, but is tailored specifically for youth ministry.
Group. What I like about their website and curriculum is it is tailored for a specific program. Whether it is a small group setting, mission trip training, sermons, or even junior high or high school material, the resource organization on their website is very helpful. Group also provides a LIVE curriculum that will last the entire junior high and high school years – 72/144 weeks respectively.
Regular Baptist Press. This one might not be as well-known, but it happens to be my favorite. Out of all the curriculum I have used, this is the most user-friendly and creative. If I ever have a guest speaker for a series, I typically will try to give them this curriculum. The only downside is there typically is not DVD-based curriculum, if you are into those, and also the topics are somewhat limited. But if you find something that fits your topic, I would strongly recommend purchasing or at least using it as a supplement material to your lessons.
Simply Youth Ministry. See Youth Specialties description. This is essentially the youth department of Group. So much of what is on this website overlaps with Group and their products. But I still go here to make sure I didn’t miss any resources.
Zondervan. This may have gone under the radar to many of you, because Zondervan is often viewed as a publisher or regular books, not necessarily curriculum. I’ve found some great material here, including some incredibly creative DVD-series that my student have enjoyed. Worth a look.
Word of Life. When a youth worker or a new youth pastor is looking for a curriculum that is already designed, planned, and much of the pre-work is done already…this is where I point them. Word of Life has done a great job at providing curriculum that saves the teacher time in lesson planning, but also provides quality teaching and material for the lesson prep and study time.
At our church, there is only one month where we encourage each other. So we set aside October each year, and call it Encouragement Month, and get all the encouraging out of the way before the holidays. Kidding. Kidding.
Encouragement month is where the church family is asked to attend kid & teen extracurricular (sports, band, drama, etc) activities. The month prior, we ask parents and guardians to turn in their children’s schedules, so we can put together a master calendar of activities. That calendar is blown up, and displayed in the lobby. At the display, there are also copies of the schedule to take home.
So what’s the point? Seems like a great deal of organizing, for what purpose? I’m glad you asked. Here are 4 reasons why it is worth it, and why your church should consider doing it.
Kids Like Encouragement. Imagine that. Kids and teens like to be encouraged. And let me tell you, when those students have a cheering section from their church, it means the world to them. Never underestimate attending a ball game, play, or band concert. All you have to do is sit there, and cheer when appropriate – apparently school plays aren’t the place for the wave. Who knew?
Bring Generations Together. I loved hearing stories of older generations attending some of the games or concerts. When a young person sees the older generation taking interest in them, they begin to see them in a different light. This small step can help bond the church together tighter, and can go a long way in the unity that churches crave.
A Youth Leader’s Best Friend. As much as we would like to, it would be difficult for most youth pastors or leaders to be able to attend every student’s activities. Or, if you are a smaller ministry, you may feel pressure to attend several games of the students you have, but your schedule doesn’t allow it. Well, committing to attending games in October allows you to make sure a representative from your youth ministry comes to the game, and show that student support and keep the connection to your ministry. And, for the smaller ministries, it allows you to streamline your schedule more effectively, and keeps you accountable in supporting your students in their extracurricular activities.
Connection to the Schools. While your main purpose is not to make a connection with the school, it is to encourage the student. Your attendance does provide an opportunity to meet administration, teachers, and coaches. This connection could begin to develop into a larger ministry role in the future, when the school administration knows and sees your support.
That parent just slammed the door after letting you know how horrible a job you are doing. That student you thought would lead your praise band next year just got busted at a party. That event you thought would attract hundreds ended up attracting less students than adult volunteers.
Any of these sound familiar? Are you wondering if there is any hope out there for the youth pastor or youth worker? Well, your encouragement can be found here.
2 John 1:4 tells us one place youth pastors can find joy is seeing children walk in the truth. You see, youth or student ministry is unique. Oftentimes, you do not see the results right away. You may struggle with a student, pour your life, energy, heart, & soul into that student and they may walk off to a university only to make horrible decisions. But, if you endure, if you persevere and stay true to God’s Word and continue fighting for the spiritual growth of these young people, the day will come where you can rejoice. The tears from your prayers, the frustration of bad decisions, and the heartache over rebellion…that will fade away when that one student comes to you later in life and says “Thank you for believing in me, for caring about me when no one else did, or pushing me to Jesus. I’m now a youth leader in my church (or I now serve in an inner-city mission or I teach 5th grade Sunday school). But even better, you helped me realize I need Jesus in my life. I’m following Him now”.
Those hard times will still be there. But take heart youth worker, because there will be a day when you find a student on Facebook, or you hear from their parents, or they show up outside your office door…and they are walking in the truth. And what joy that will bring.
Early in my youth ministry, a visitor introduced themselves to me and asked “Oh, are you the youth pastor?”. I said “Yes, ma’am”. “That’s great” the elderly woman said. Then, the dagger. “Are you going to become a REAL pastor someday?”
OUCH! Now, she meant no harm by the statement, but the sentiment was there. At youth conferences, we sometimes joke about this attitude of “well if the church has a senior pastor, so that must make the youth pastor a junior pastor. Someday they will graduate to become a REAL pastor.”
But in my short ministry career, I’ve come to appreciate both the hard work and dedication of the senior pastor role, but the same holds true for all those associate pastors out there as well. I’m also very thankful I’m in a church that appreciates them both.
So, if you are an associate pastor, you are an important piece to the Body of Christ, and your work for the gospel is needed! Let these 10 things be an encouragement to you today to keep serving the Lord, that is until you become a real pastor =)
(taken from H. B. Charles Jr. Blog)
Seek clarity about your calling. Not every associate preacher is called to be a senior pastor. It may be to serve alongside another pastor. This is a noble calling. You ministry is not unimportant because your name is not on the bulletin. Seek the Lord about the calling on your life. Is it missionary work? Should you be in the classroom, rather than the pulpit? Is there an area of specialization, like youth of Christian education, the Lord has purposed for you? Or are you called to the pulpit of a local church? Get clarity about your calling and head in that direction.
Be ready to preach and teach. You may not have a scheduled time to preach. And you may have to share opportunities with other associates. So take advantage of every chance you get. Be ready. Don’t wait to get a date before you prepare. Study now. Write a sermon. Get your pastor’s input. Show him by your work that you are ready. And don’t wait for Sunday morning spots. Volunteer for a Sunday school class, prayer breakfast, or funeral. Teach whenever you can. Prepare for the pastorate by increasing your skill and experience in ministering the word.
Learn everything you can. Consider yourself an intern. Be marked present. Get involved. Participate in behind the scenes work, not just platform stuff. Follow your pastor around. Ask a lot of questions. Listen to the answers. Don’t talk too much. Process what you experience. Learn from successes and mistakes. Soak up all the knowledge and wisdom you can get.
Be proactive about your growth. Time doesn’t fix a flat tire. And it does not produce a skilled minister. You must be intentional about your development. Don’t be pulpit furniture. Don’t be guilty of ministerial sloth. And don’t wait for others to invest in you. Read. Study. Go to school. Attend of ongoing training events. Seek out your pastor’s counsel, guidance, and mentorship. Ask for assignments that will help you grow. Don’t be indifferent about your ministerial future. Determine to be the best you can be for God.
Be loyal to your pastor. The pastor was voted, called, or selected to lead the church. You were not. It is not your place to run ahead of the pastor or to work against him. You are there to assist him. Respect him, even if you are older. Support him, even if you have been there longer. Honor him, even if you have more training or experience. Pray for him. Do whatever you can to help him. Be trustworthy. Keep private information confidential. Do not speak against the pastor to members. Do not listen to members speak against the pastor. Remember the Golden Rule (Matt. 7:12).
Have a servant’s spirit. The paradox of Christian discipleship is that the one who would lead must be a servant. This is the Christian way to leadership. We are servant-leaders. Serving as an associate minister can help you develop a proper attitude toward Christian leadership. Be a servant. Imitate the one who washed his disciples feet (John 13). Make yourself available to serve. Serve as to the Lord, not for men. And don’t get offended when you are treated like a servant!
Keep your ego in check. Don’t let compliments, encouragements, and opportunities go to your head. You may be a better preacher or leader than your pastor. But it may just be your pride talking. Regardless, there is a reason the Lord has placed under his leadership. And it is not to compete with the pastor. Be humble. Be submissive. Be faithful. In due time, the Lord will exalt you. Don’t exalt yourself!
Do not usurp authority. If you are not the senior pastor, do not presume authority that is not yours. Do what you are asked to do. Don’t take liberties with the opportunities you are given. Don’t let leaders or members pressure you to act impetuously. Don’t make a golden calf for the people while the leader is away. If in doubt, ask. Or, better yet, don’t do it. Stay in your lane.
Wait your turn. You have a burden to pastor. It has been your heart’s desire for some time. You have done what you can to prepare yourself. But no doors have opened. You are stuck in God’s waiting room. Don’t get impatient. God knows who you are and where you are. God knows the place he has for you. God also knows how and when to get your there. Don’t be weary in well doing. Trust that God’s timing is perfect.
Leave when it’s time to leave. You are asking for trouble if you leave an assignment prematurely. God punishes AWOL soldiers. At the same time, don’t stay too long. Don’t sit in neutral unnecessarily. Don’t hide out from your true calling. Don’t be a source of confusion or disunity. If you do not respect your leader or cannot follow his leadership, leave. But make sure you leave in a way that leaves the door open.