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!

Teaching the Next Generation: 9 Concepts for Effective Communication

teaching-children-the-word-of-god-imageWhat are we communicating to our kids, students, and parents? What do we want them to walk away with each and every time they sit under our teaching? How would we define a win when it comes to our messages?

The goal when teaching is never to impress. Instead, our goal must be to connect and communicate clearly the truth contained in the pages of the Bible. When we allow our ambition to drive us to impress we often miss the goal of clarity!

Matthew 13:10-15 (The Message) – “10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?” 11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight. In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they’re blue in the face and not get it. I don’t want Isaiah’s forecast repeated all over again: Your ears are open but you don’t hear a thing. Your eyes are awake but you don’t see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won’t have to listen;
They screw their eyes shutso they won’t have to look, so they won’t have to deal with me face-to-face and let me heal them.”

Jesus told stories to create readiness. He understood that people needed help in order to be ready to digest the truth He was teaching. Jesus understood the need to connect in order to reveal truth. Many of us who communicate need this reminder often. When we step up to speak we have to remember to put time into creating connection moments as we teach the Scripture with faithfulness.

Each of us may get anywhere from 10-30 minutes each week to communicate God’s Word to the next generation. Are we doing that in the most effective manner – in a way that is going to draw attention to who God is? Here are 9 key concepts that will lead to excellent communication…

1. God’s Word and the Holy Spirit are more powerful than you – Are you relying on your own words or God’s Word to see lives transformed? God will speak through you in ways you can never imagine! So many times I have walked away from speaking not remembering what I said. These have been the moments where God is completely speaking through me. His way with words is greater than anything we could ever say!

As you study and prepare, make sure you are not missing what God is saying. Look to His Word for the majority of your message and not culture, history, or the latest idea that may draw emotion. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit to speak through you!

2. Keep it clear and simple – The next generation does not want deep theological messages based on the Greek text, historical documents, or the separation of modern religion. They are not concerned about dispensationalism, the difference between humanistic theology and Christlikeness, and the views of premillennialism, postmillennialism, or amillennialism.

While I believe our kids and students need to understand theology and teaching theology is very important, our messages cannot get bogged down with the theological debates that go on in the religious world every day. Our kids want to hear simple and clear truths from God’s Word that they can take and apply to their lives! What are you doing to keep your communication simple and clear?

3. Talk with, not at – Have you ever sat in a conversation in which the other person had totally disengaged? Kids feel like they get talked at all the time – lectured by their teachers, yelled at by parents and coaches, and talked down by those around them. They need to be talked with. Whether it is your physical approach or the words you use, make sure you are communicating to and with, instead of at.

For years, I refused to even stand on a stage and talk above our students. Our physical demeanor says a lot about whether or not we truly care about those we are communicating with. Kids and students need us to step down to their level and talk to them, not at them. It is the image of us getting our knees and talking with a child as opposed to standing above them and pointing our finger at them.

4. Less is more – We must make sure our message is focused on the bottom line. Cutting out material is a difficult process but less is more when you want kids to walk away with the main point. Never have a message that has ten points in it… kind of like the one I am doing right now.

Our rule with students is never go above 15-20 minutes with MS and 20-25 minutes with HS. The less application points we communicate, the better chance we have of seeing lives transformed. When we teach on multiple points, students typically walk away with nothing.

5. Be relatable and culturally relevant – This does not mean we have to strive to be as hip as possible! But it does mean, we have to communicate in a way that is going to make sense to today’s younger generation. Talking about toaster ovens and 8-track players is not very culturally relevant. But using terms that kids can relate to causes God’s Word to become more relevant to their situation and circumstance. The words we use will often determine whether or not kids see us as authentic. If we try to use big words that don’t make sense, we will lose attention. When we use language that makes sense, they will grasp the truth of God’s message!

6. Use invitation and challenge – God invited the disciples into an awesome relationship with Him. He had compassion, fed them incredible meals, traveled the world with them, and built incredible bonds with each one of them. But he also challenged the heck out of the disciples. Kids will react as we approach them with this same mindset. Don’t be afraid to open up your life – be real and authentic, while at the same time using God’s Word to challenge those around you to live as He lived and talk as He talked!

7. Think outside the box – There are many different ways of learning – audio, visual, sensory, question & answer, etc. Do not just think in the parameters of the words you use. Never limit yourself to what you have available at your fingertips! Always think outside the box when communicating God’s Word!

8. Be prepared to fail – There will definitely be times when you say something you shouldn’t say or misspeak. There have been times where I have misquoted Scripture or even somewhat taken it out of context. We have to be ready to not only accept failure, but also accept the critique of others. I have people who I go to every time I speak that evaluate every aspect of my message – stage presence, word usage, application, content, and voice influx. There are also times that we will walk away discouraged, feeling like we completely bombed the message. I have lost count of how many times that has happened to me. You will not always present things perfectly, but these are moments that God will still use and that we can grow from.

9. Never lose sight of the end goal – Our end goal must always be transformed lives. We must never lose sight of our God-given purpose – to make disciples who are making disciples! Your communication is not about you obtaining the spotlight, but about Christ shining through every word!

Connecting is not always easy work but it may just be the difference maker when it comes to people taking forward steps in their spiritual journey!

Imagine If… Finding Hope in the Cross

john-19-30Imagine if you were there, over 2000 years ago, in Jerusalem… Imagine if you had seen Jesus stumbling down the road. Imagine if you had seen him beaten, watched them shove a crown of thorns on his head, watched as he fell to the ground, and heard the crowd scream ‘Crucify!’ Imagine if you had watched as he suffered, bled, and died on the wooden cross. What would have gone through your mind? Would you have been filled with compassion or joined the crowd in cheering on his death? Last evening I took our middle and high school students on a journey through Jesus’ death on the cross. It was one of the most powerful services we have ever experienced at Youth Night @ Cape Christian! My challenge out of the message was this… The way we live our lives today is a reflection of how we would have reacted if we were there over 2000 years ago! Many of us are passionately living out our relationship with Christ. We are filled with His compassion, love, and grace! Those of us who have dedicated our lives to a relationship with Christ would have been extremely sympathetic as we watched Jesus suffer. Many of us would have stepped in and attempted to save Jesus! There are many ‘Christians’ that live their lives as if Jesus is still dead – almost as if he is a figment of their imagination or a good idea to live by. They may have the knowledge of God, understand some of the Bible, but fall into the pressures of culture. As that happens, they are basically staring at Jesus and yelling ‘Crucify!’ My prayer is that my life is a testimony of who Jesus is, not because it is a good idea, but because of the love that Jesus has shown me on the cross! Here is the audio link to last night’s message – Imagine If… Finding Hope in the Cross.  I challenge you to take 25 minutes to listen to it. Hopefully God challenges you as you find hope in the cross!