Missional Student Ministry According to Jesus

UP-IN-OUT-logoRunning from event-to-event, weekend-to-weekend can be extremely draining! Many pastors and ministry leaders face burnout and exhaustion because of the lack of vision and direction. We live lives and carry on with ministry out of what ‘looks good’ instead of what God truly desires of us. What would it look like for you to do as Jesus did and talk as Jesus talked – to live your life as He lived and to lead your ministry as He led?

3DM focuses on the Up, In, and Out lifestyle of Jesus. In other words, He prioritized His relationship with the Father, focused on creating a culture of discipleship within those closest to Him, and carried out a life of outreach and mission beyond His social comfort zone. What would it look like for us to do this within the context of our ministries?

God has been challenging me over the past few weeks to truly abide in His presence. It is not that I was completely missing the mark of His calling, but there are definitely areas that need pruning. I need the Father’s direct sunlight, while allowing the shade and comfort of the Holy Spirit to infiltrate my entire life.

Our relationship with the Father places focus on the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ In other words, we are able to find true purpose and meaning to our lives when we abide in His love. When we experience authentic spiritual growth, fruit will appear that we did not even think was possible.

As we look up and answer God’s calling on our lives, we must not miss the community He has placed around us. Many of the students and young adults I work with want relationships, but they don’t want commitment and accountability. In other words, they want the fun, but not the challenge; they want the fruit, but they don’t want to experience the pruning process.

God puts specific people in our lives to hold us accountable. He also places a responsibility on our shoulders to establish a culture of discipleship within our families and ministries. Are you being used by God to see lives transformed within your sphere of influence? When it comes to the impact we can have, it is not always about the large numbers. Typically, we will have far greater impact on fewer people than on large crowds. We must start small as we dream big!

As we grow closer to the Father and create a discipling culture, we will not miss the opportunity to share Christ with the masses! We will focus on the lost, spend time developing a vision for outreach, and live as the hands and feet of Jesus. We will see people as Jesus sees them, instead of how our ignorant human flesh sees them. We will be quicker to forgive and slower to lash out in anger.

Our mission must begin with a growing relationship with the Father, where we truly find ourselves abiding in His presence. As we do this, a culture of discipleship will be created, and we will ultimately live out as His hands and feet to a broken world!

One of the things that I have been specifically wrestling with is how this lays out into the vision of student ministry. I am in the process of a major project – evaluating all aspects of student ministry directly from the perspective of missional living.

I have narrowed it down to three basic questions that I am hoping to lay out over the next few weeks and months in book form.

  1. What does it look like to authentically lead students into the presence of the Father?
  2. What must happen within the four walls of our ministry in order to create a successful culture of discipleship?
  3. How can we see a true revolution take place within our communities, schools, and homes?

I would love to hear any and all feedback in regards to how you see this happening, specifically in the context of Student Ministry!

Attraction vs. Discipleship: What are we Feeding our Students? (Part 2)


Everybody is doing it. Just this one time won’t hurt. Relationships solve every problem. You are #1. Popularity and power are keys to success. Music is life. Image is everything. But he loves me. We are attracted to each other in every way possible!

In a culture that is full of lies and falsities, many of our students are missing the mark of authentic discipleship! Much of our time in youth ministry is spent attracting students, yet we often find ourselves using the same tactics as SnapChat, Nike, Apple, Abercrombie, and Starbucks. The image of our ministry is everything! We want the latest and greatest of everything! We want to be in the spotlight of our schools. We want leaders to thank us and show their appreciation for us. We want our senior pastors to acknowledge our works and abilities. We want parents to see their kids are having fun and staying safe when they are with us. We want to fit in with the ‘cool kids!’ We want to be edgy with our messages and ways of communication. We want students to think we are hip before they mention our love for Jesus.

What are we feeding our students? What do they take away from their time in our ministries? What are we communicating? How are we attracting new students and connecting them into a journey with Christ?

I challenge every ministry leader, every youth pastor, every volunteer, and every parent to see their responsibility of making disciples before they ever think about creating cool ministries full of popular students! We often become disillusioned in our quest for discipleship. We trick ourselves into believing that if we attract the right students we will grow an awesome ministry. While that can be true based on numbers it does not always equate into a culture of discipleship. Here are six warning signs that can appear within a Culture of Attraction versus six key focuses we must strive towards in order to develop a Culture of Discipleship.

Here is an in-depth breakdown of the first three…

1. Emotional Rollercoaster vs. Foundation in Christ

2. Events & Programs vs. Relationships & Community

3. Elevating Self vs. Elevating God’s Voice

4. Reliance on Yourself vs. Reliance on God – It is for us easy to rely on ourselves when life is going great. We can own our success and strive to be more awesome than the person next to us. When times get tough we tend to blame God and point our finger at those around us. Within ministry, it is easy to put one’s successes and failures in the spotlight. We tend to highlight celebration stories and call out failures and mistakes. Through all of this, we become inclined to focus on the abilities of the individual instead of God’s love and abilities through the individual!

Our students need to know they cannot rely on themselves. Every time I trust myself, I fail others. As I fail others I miss the purpose God has for me. When we trust God, we will impact others, and ultimately bring honor and glory to the Father! By relying on God, we will see life in a whole new way! God is love and we tend to be full of revenge. God is patient but we want things done immediately. God is faithful even as we fail Him! Our students struggle with balance, structure, and consistency. Relying on themselves is going to lead to an unbalanced, unhealthy, inconsistent walk with Christ. As we teach our students to completely rely on the Father, they will experience life to its fullness!

5. Large Group vs. The Whole Person – Is your level of success measured by how many come to your weekly student ministry gathering or how many individuals are drastically changed for the cause of Christ? Before I continue, please understand that when we see disciples made, numerical growth will take place. But, often we see numerical growth happen without authentic discipleship occurring. We must not measure success based on the number within the large group!

For many youth pastors, much your time is spent impacting the largest amount possible at one time. In other words, we pour into our weekly gatherings to make them fun, inviting, attractive, and full of energy. Although there is nothing wrong with that at a surface level, are we missing the whole person? In other words, are we missing the individuals God has called us to directly impact? As we look at Jesus’ ministry, we see a model of ministry focused more on the 3 and 12 then on the 70, 120, and 5000. He poured into Peter, James, and John – opening his life to each of them in a very personal way. He looked at every aspect of Peter and desired to see him become whole! Peter took that example and carried into his ministry throughout Acts. Yes, there was time poured into large gatherings, but Jesus had a heart for the individual person.

As you look at your schedule, how do you break up your time? Are you spending a good portion of your time ministering to those closest to you or is all of your time eaten up by the attractional aspect of programs and events? Who are your 3 and 12? What does that relationship look like? Are you living a life worth imitating in order to create a culture of discipleship?

6. Living for the Moment vs. Living on Mission – Culture has brainwashed our students into believing the living in the moment is more important than the overall mission. In others words, the decisions you make today won’t impact your tomorrow. Have fun and enjoy every moment to its fullest. Lie! I made choices in high school that have impacted my relationships as an adult – both with positive and negative implications. Many of those were ‘in the moment’ decisions that were exciting, adventurous, and fun. I did not realize how they would impact the mission God had for me. When we live moment-to-moment we tend to struggle with boredom. I have seen so many students bounce from one ‘great’ relationship to another because they become bored with what is happening right now. This can easily transfer into ministry. I have seen so many youth leaders live in the excitement of one event or one service. When the normal routine of ministry kicks in, boredom hits. I truly believe this is why so many youth pastors bounce from one place to another or from one level of leadership to the next.

As we live on mission, the excitement of God’s calling will always get us through the difficult moments. There will always be circumstances that don’t make sense. As they times arise, are we living in the moment or living on mission for God? Is there an eternal focus and purpose driving every aspect of our ministries or are we just bouncing from one fun event to the next? As we live on mission we will experience the awesome impact a culture of discipleship can have on every moment within our ministries!

My prayer is that our time, energy, resources, and passion are poured into a culture of discipleship! Attraction is important, but seeing lives focused on a love for Christ is most important. We must be rooted in Christ, focused on relationships and community, hearing God’s voice, relying on God, compassionate for the individual person, and living on mission for God! I would love to hear how this is played out within your ministry. Where do you struggle the most? Where do you see the most success?

Guest Post: Two Lies that Keep Families from Being Missional

TwoLiesKeepFamiliesMissional660x330I came across this incredible article from John Murchison, the Children’s Pastor at The Austin Stone Community Church! It is a must read for all parents and family ministry church leaders! I am so excited to begin implementing much of this into the culture of our Family Ministry!

Two Lies that Keep Families from Being Missional: Part 1

Two Lies that Keep Families from Being Missional: Part 2

Here is just a sneak peak into these articles… 

When talking with parents of young children about the idea of being in a Missional Community, of joining a small group of believers who work together to declare and demonstrate the gospel, I usually get one of two responses.

Parents either say,

“Sounds great! Where should I drop my kids off? Or will you send a babysitter to my house?”

or, they say,

“That sounds great for other people, but right now I have children, and my primary calling is to disciple them. Maybe once they’re grown up, then I can join a Missional Community.”

For some reason, many parents have an underlying assumption that they can’t do both of these things at the same time. They feel they must choose between being in a Missional Community or spending time with their children.

I don’t think parents who say these things are bad people. Quite the opposite, in fact. I think they are trying to be faithful to what God is calling them to both as parents and as Christians on mission. And they’re frustrated by the fact that they don’t think they can do both well.

I’ve been wondering where this underlying assumption comes from, and I think it largely stems from two lies that we, the American church, have told them: the lie of Christian age segregation, and the lie of event-based Christian ministry.