Archive for January, 2015

“Hey welcome to the ministry! What’s your name?

“Bob”

“Cool. Nice to meet you, Bob. So what grade are you in? What school?”

“Woodbridge. 9th grade.”

“Awesome. Glad you’re here.”

(mutually awkward nods and smiles)

-awkward pause-

“Aight! Well, let me introduce you to Jim. He’s super cool.” (and much better at conversing than me!)


awkward silenceIf you’ve have ever served or will serve in youth ministry, these awkward silences when meeting new students might be something you can understand.

Some people are super natural at striking up a conversation. They seem to be able whip up a conversation topic out of thin air. I give them mad props.

I’m definitely not one of those people. In general, in a group where there are a lot of people talking, I tend to talk less. Or I prefer being invited to talk in a conversation rather than initiating. So what do you do when you’re in a ministry setting and meeting new students left and right, and working to build a sense of rapport with students you are trying to get to know better?

For those of you who are more like me, here are four questions you can use to help navigate through awkward encounters. While settings like small groups and Bible studies can be the place to have deeper, more intimate conversations – these simple, lighthearted questions have helped me break the ice, build some common ground, and help students feel more connected.

Just remember – there are so many different types of students out there. Some are outgoing and just need a little prompting to talk and share. Some feel more comfortable if you share more and they just get a chance to listen and warm up to you. Try to be in-tune to the student and their personality and adapt accordingly.

TIP: For each of these questions – you can transition into them by sharing your answers to the questions first.

1. What video/cellphone games are you playing? This is a great question that has saved me especially with the guys, but it can also work with the girls. Don’t forget that there are many different consoles (Xbox, Ps4, Wii, Apple products, phone and computer games).

2. What did you do this past weekend? This can be tremendously helpful question to get a lot of information regarding the student’s interests, family and how they spend their free time. Students may not have done anything during the weekend so you can ask follow up questions about any vacations they have been on in the past year or so.

3. “Have you” questions…? (e.g.Have you tried this new restaurant or watched this movie or new tv show?) This is where you can talk about some of your favorite places or shows and see if there is any common ground. I’ve found so many good commonalities with students about the latest dessert places in town!

4. “Would you rather” question. (e.g. would you rather be hairy all over your body or completely bald?) This is a great way to be goofy and have a little fun. It may seem really strange to ask this question to a new student but laughter is sometimes the best way to break the tension and create a comfortable atmosphere. It may go something like this: “I know this sounds random but I’m really curious what you would choose…would you rather…?”

At the end of the day, if you are genuinely caring about the students and your desire is to make them feel welcomed and loved – they will sense that. And that is what’s most important. So be true to who you are and don’t put pressure on yourself (or the student) to be someone different. And most importantly, have fun!

 

 

“I can’t wait to get out of Jr. High Ministry and be the pastor of the college ministry.”

This was my attitude even before I began working my first job as a Jr. High Pastor. I never saw myself in youth ministry before because I felt like I couldn’t really relate to that younger crowd, especially Jr. High students. Even more than that, however, I was just disinterested. In all my years at church, I never volunteered to help out with Jr. High or High school ministries.

entry level job cupBut for most young pastors in their early twenties starting their vocational ministry, youth ministry is the typical “entry level” position. I was no exception. In order to climb the corporate church ladder and gain enough experience and respect to do what I really wanted to do, I had to serve my time with the middle-school students.

Great attitude, eh? Fortunately, God changed my heart – I’m now a strong believer in not just the importance but beauty of Jr. High ministry (and youth ministry in general!). It is such a critical age that can really impact the rest of their lives.

I was a Jr. High Pastor for almost six years and during those years I got to build relationships with amazing students. I walked with them through the hardships of their lives, and also got to see the beauty of life change at retreats, mission trips, Bible studies. Now, some of them are post college graduates, which makes me feel extra old, but also blessed and privileged to have been part of their lives from their pre-pubescent days until now.

passionGetting to this point, however, God had to give me a spiritual slap in the face (actually more like several slaps) to show me that I cared more about a POSITION in the church rather than having a PASSION for the church. While I started off with the young and fresh passion to serve God, it was serving God on my own terms and in the way I thought would benefit me the most. But part of the beauty of God’s guidance is that He doesn’t allow us to just get what we want, but really tests and challenges our hearts so we can grow.

I had to repent (several times) and stop caring more about a position in the church rather than being passionate for the church. I had to check myself when I found my thoughts more consumed with plans of how and when I would move up the church ladder to do “real” ministry with adults, rather than focusing on shepherding the congregation members that God had entrusted me at the time. I had to reorient my heart to care for God’s people, God’s word, and God’s kingdom in my current ministry, rather than in a future context.

I believe this mentality is something that can be a temptation for many young pastors who may not even be aware of those thoughts. So here are some questions that helped me wrestle with my wrong focus in order to realign my heart with God’s heart for His church. I hope that they help you to be more passion driven rather than position driven.

Disclaimer: This is for pastors who are in a good and healthy church setting and not a challenge to stay in an unhealthy church setting that is destroying you, your family and church.

1) How often do you think about your next ministry or church rather than focusing on your current ministry?

If it’s at least once a week then your heart is probably driven more by position than passion. You may need to reassess your heart and have some conversations with God, your family, friends and church staff. It will be good to explore the deeper truths and struggles for why you are thinking about this so much. The reason may be that God is calling you out for good reasons, but it could also be that you are stuck on thinking more about yourself and your own personal goals rather than God’s! If this is the case, it’ll be good to get counsel and wisdom from others!

2) How often do you engage and pray for the lost and broken in your called position at church?

Does your heart break for people who are living without the love of God? Are you so filled with the love and joy of your relationship with God, that it saddens you that there are people who do not have that same peace? If we aren’t praying for the hurting and discouraged and lost, then our hearts are probably distracted or clouded by way too many other unimportant things.

3) Do you get excited about your current ministry or just see it as work

There were times when I would walk into church for some of our biggest events such as camps, retreats and mission trips and I would not be excited. Rather, I would just see it as work. That was a huge red flag for me. My desire to “move up” to another ministry was not allowing me to see the joy present in my current ministry. As God changed my heart to love these students, I found myself eager to do the work and planning for those events because I saw the significance and importance that they brought.

4) What kind of stories do you share about your ministry with your friends? Stories that highlight the God stuff or the negative stuff?

Your close friends might ask you about how your ministry is going, and the stories that you share can be an indicator about whether you are driven by passion or position. Of course, it is important to have people you can vent to and express any frustrations that you are experiencing. But overall, are the things you share mostly complaints? Do you have stories of God transforming lives that you are excited to share? The stories on our mind can really be a window into our hearts.

5) Would you still be doing church work even if you did not get paid?

This is not a practical question – of course, you need to be able to provide for yourself and your family. But it is a good hypothetical question to ask to test your heart. Do you love what you do? Are you passionate about what you are doing right now? This can help you search your heart to see whether your passion for God’s work trumps any position, salary, and title you may have in the church.

 

BEST_OF_2014_2048x1536As we are attempting to keep our 2015 New Year’s Resolutions, do we even remember what our resolutions were last year? If you have short-term memory like me, it’s important to take moments to stop, pause, and reflect on events that have happened in your life, your community, and our world. As 2014 will start to fade away, I’ve compiled some significant stories and articles that would be good to remember, reflect and continue to have conversations about. These issues won’t be going away anytime soon or be resolved in 2015; however, I hope that as the church we can continue to reflect inward and take positive steps forward in love through conversations with our families, communities and churches.

If you also have any interesting articles to share, please send them my way! I’d love to read.

1. Same-Sex Marriage and the Church

This topic is one of the most divisive issues in the church right now. There is a range of evangelical perspectives as more states are legalizing same-sex marriage.

US Now Recognizes Same-Sex Marriage in 33 States, Including DC

World Vision’s Same-Sex Marriage Reversal Shows Divide Within Evangelical Church

Christian Singer Vicky Beeching Appeals to God’s Love to Justify Her Lesbianism

2. Racism and Policing

In a time where one would assume that we have made great strides on the racism issue, 2014 showed us that we still need to be talking about this. Here are some great articles on how we need to respond.

‘I honestly don’t know what to say’; Jon Stewart gets serious on Eric Garner

A Decision in Ferguson: How Should Evangelicals Respond?

NFL player’s Facebook post on Ferguson decision goes viral

3. Worldwide Crisis: Ebola and ISIS

Ebola and ISIS rocked the world in 2014. We all felt the impact of both issues domestically and it was a good reminder that global crises should matter to us.  Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was the Ebola fighters to honor their battle against the disease. The conflict surrounding ISIS was also littered with many misconceptions, apathy, or disillusionment.

Ebola: Person of the Year 

The 9 Biggest Myths About ISIS Debunked

4. Christian Persecutions around the world

There are estimated 200 million Christians that are persecuted worldwide. 2014 highlighted the continual need for prayer and support of our brothers around the globe.

Sudanese Christian woman who once faced death penalty arrives in U.S

Hindu Nationalist Group Seeking to Cleanse Christian Presence From India Is Not Unlike ISIS, Watchdog Group Warns

Pastor Saeed Abedini in ‘Severe Pain’ in Iranian Prison

Scores Killed, Thousands Flee Christian Town in Boko Haram Rampage in Nigeria

5. Air Travel Tragedy

This was a year of tragedy for many from the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 to Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 being shot down in eastern Ukraine, and Air Asia Flight QZ8501 which went down into the sea. But 2014 was still considered a safe year of travel comparatively to the volume of travels.

Other views: A difficult year for air travel

Is 2014 the deadliest year for flights? Not even close

6. Mega Church Mars Hill Closes its Doors 

A church of 13,000 closed its doors in 2014 with a mixed range of emotions from tears to cheers.

Reaction to Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Resignation Includes Sadness, Gratitude From Mars Hill Church Community

Goodbye, Mars Hill: Mark Driscoll’s Multisite Empire Will Sell Properties and Dissolve

7. Pope Francis as a beacon of hope for the younger generation

The Pope has been one of the most influential leaders in 2014 and the younger generation is paying attention.

Why is Pope Francis so popular?

Pope Francis Fast Facts

8. Christian Films

2014 has been dubbed as the “Year of Biblical Movies”  with a plethora of movie choices ranging from Son of GodNoah,  Alone Yet Not AloneMom’s Night OutIrreplaceableHeaven is for RealWhen the Game Stands TallCalvaryIn Plain SightThe RemainingLeft BehindRagamuffinThe Good LieThe SongExodus: Gods and KingsUnbroken and Saving Christmas. Even with some controversial portrayals of movies like Noah and Exodus: Sons of God, there seems to be a growing niche for faith based movies

Is 2014 the year of the Christian film?

Lights! Camera! Jesus! How Christians Are Building Their Own Hollywood

9. Immigration Reform and the Church

Immigration reform seems like a political issue that the church shouldn’t address, but there are evangelical positions on why this issue is a faith related matter.

Why Immigration Reform is a Christian Cause

Evangelical opinion split on Obama’s immigration reforms

10. North Korean reality

North Korea was a hot topic during the recent the Sony Hack and there was no lack of opinions about the releasing of the movie The Interview and whether or not the movie should have been made in the first place. In the midst of the controversy, it is easy to forget the human rights issues rampant in North Korea.

North Korean reality isn’t funny for Christians: Column

Sony was wrong to pull ‘The Interview,’ Obama says

‘Christians in North Korea Face Unimaginable Pressure in Every Sphere of Life,’ Says Open Doors USA President