This past week, as a church staff, we were challenged to come up with 100 things for which we are thankful. This list would be used in a sermon on the topic of thankfulness, with the main idea being that thankfulness precedes the miracle, with many thoughts taken from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I decided I would go ahead and share my list with you all. Please keep in mind that the list is in NO particular order. In fact, the order is purposefully random, because I am equally thankful for many things. So, as you read through my list, I hope it inspires you to make your own list, which could be a good exercise, especially heading into Thanksgiving. In fact, maybe you could actually try for one thousand, instead of just 100.
I just wanted to write a quick post to thank our veterans today. Many people probably don’t know that I was very close to signing up for the Navy when I was a senior in high school. I eventually realized it was not where God wanted me to go. He was calling me to youth ministry, instead. However, I am VERY grateful to those who do serve. It is because of your service that I am free to do my actual calling without fear. God bless all, but especially today, bless those who have served in our military.
Here we are again, in the third installment of my “Things You Don’t Learn in Bible College” series. Today, we tackle something I personally dread — stacking chairs.
When in Bible college, I learned a LOT about doing youth ministry. My professors were great about teaching us practical skills. Not only did I learn the Bible, but I learned how to plan an event, how to budget, and how to develop a curriculum. One of the things I did not learn was how to stack chairs. Now, many of you are probably sitting there thinking, “Are you serious? Do you really need to learn how to stack chairs?” Ok, maybe I did not need an entire class about it, but it would have been nice to know that much of my Sunday afternoons would be spent stacking those things in order to clear some space to do an activity.
Our worship area is multi-purpose, as we do not have much space. So, our large group time at Youth Group takes place there. This means we have to move chairs quite often, if we want enough room to play a game. Believe me when I say that there is an art to it. I don’t know about your church’s chairs, or if you even have chairs, but ours stack a specific way. If you don’t start it off right (with the legs right on top of the other chair’s legs), the whole stack will fall over by the time you get to the third or fourth chair. You must also figure out the proper stacking height. For our chairs, I tend to stop at six, but it is possible to go as high as seven, as long as you do not move them around much after you stack them. Then, you have to learn the best place to store them, either in the room or in another room. All this is basically trial and error, unless you have the same style chairs as us. In that case, follow the above procedures.
Then, putting the chairs back is another art-form in itself. Not all of our chairs have pockets in the back, so we have to alternate. If you have ever been around after an event at RCC, helping with chair setup, you will hear something that has become a mantra: “Pocket, no pocket, pocket, no pocket.” You also have to shape the rows properly, in order to fit them all a certain way that gets the maximum amount in the room. Just thinking about it exhausts me.
There are some benefits to chair stacking, though. The first is that when doing it alone, it provides a time for me to get away from my desk and other things that can get overwhelming. I often put in my ear buds and listen to an audiobook or some of my favorite music. Secondly, and most important, you can meet your spouse through stacking chairs. Ok, maybe that is a stretch, but it happened for me. That is exactly what I was doing the first time I met my wife. So, while I don’t really enjoy this thing that has very little direct influence on ministry, it is nice to know there are some great benefits.
Perhaps you learned how to stack chairs in your Bible college, but that is definitely something they left out of our curriculum.
This is the third post of this blog series. The overall purpose is to be both fun and informative about the “practical” side of youth ministry that people often leave out of a standard Bible college curriculum. I’ve got a small list of things to talk about, but I’m still trying to figure out if this should be merely an fun rant-style or if I should actually “teach” what I am talking about. So… What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
Tonight, we packed the Tsongas Arena in Lowell for Chris Tomlin’s “Burning Lights” tour. It was a great night of worship! At the beginning of the night, I decided not to bring my big camera with me, because I was just going to enjoy the concert, instead of viewing it through a camera lens. For the most part, that’s what I did, but I couldn’t help but capturing a few songs on video. If he ever tours in your area, I highly recommend going!
I am currently sitting at the church, waiting for our teams of servants to join us for a time of celebration and dinner tonight. Just a bit ago, I had lunch with my wife, a time when I believe God started speaking. Remember that coffee-shop dream I have? Well, after planning and executing this weekend’s service projects, I have another dream!
This weekend, we decided to cancel our worship gatherings at RCC. Instead, we went out into the community to serve God by serving others. This concept is not brand new with us, but it was brand new for our church. In fact, in a time when we are a bit low on financial giving, it seemed ridiculous to do such a thing. However, this is what we felt God was calling us to do. So, we responded out of obedience.
Due to my overwhelming excitement for this, I found myself leading the team of volunteers that made it happen. I thank God for this team, as they were amazing and truly sent from God!! Anyhow, what I found was this: As I talked with others in the community about what we were doing, they were all extremely supportive that a church would do something like this. I also heard stories about how many people were shocked that we would be willing to serve them, expecting nothing in return. This told me two things. The first is that we live in a culture that does not expect others to help them. The second, like it, is that we need to be doing this more often!
So, what is that dream, you ask? I have a dream that this goes beyond just RCC. I have a dream that all the churches in Salem begin participating in this. But it doesn’t stop there. I have a dream that surrounding communities jump on board, where churches in other towns are doing the same thing. But it doesn’t stop there. I have a dream that it becomes something much of the state is participating in — a day of service. Oh, but it doesn’t stop there! I have a dream that people begin to get impatient about having to wait for this one day of service each year, and they begin going out to help their neighbor whenever they see a need. You see, I have a dream that goes back to what Jesus said are the greatest commandments — love God and love others (Mark 12:29-31)! Perhaps this “Serving Salem Together” thing could turn into “Serving Others Together” everyday!
Our church’s vision statement is “a transformed spiritual landscape of Salem and the surrounding communities.” We are surrounded with people who are trained by culture to look out for themselves. In fact, this is so engrained in their minds that they are completely floored when someone steps out and does something for them, and asks for nothing in return. I see this during things like this weekend’s event, and I see it on our annual mission trip with our high school students (workcampNE). As God’s people, we need to change that. I’m not saying that people need to begin expecting us to serve each other. No, instead, I’m saying it should be something that just happens out of our love for God and others. Not only do we need to get to know our neighbors, but we need to love them and serve them, because Christ did that first for us.
I know it is going to take a lot of work, and I know it, most likely, will not happen overnight. But I pray that it does happen. I pray it not because of my dream or anything to do with me. I pray it because that’s what God wants. And Your will be done, Father, on earth as it is in heaven! It all starts with you and I deciding that we’re not going to live in the status quo any longer, but instead, we are going to step out of our comfort zones and actually make a difference in the lives of others. So… Are you ready to jump on board and, with God’s help, make this dream a reality?
Student ministry is not exactly what you would call a project-driven job most of the time. Instead, it’s filled with ongoing relationships that will never see fulfillment. Why? Because we will never be holy until we get to heaven. Like many others, I started in student ministry because I really enjoyed connecting with teenagers. Over the years, however, I’ve realized that I often feel the need to place myself in situations where I can work with my hands and do an actual project. The main reason for this is due to my personal desire to see end-results.
My most recent project was installing a new stereo in my car. This was not terribly difficult for me, but it was great to turn a bunch of parts and materials into a working car stereo an hour or so later. It looks nice and clean, and I really enjoy having the additional features of my new stereo.
In a job filled with projects that are never done — students who are always growing in their relationships with God — it is easy to feel down. Further, some students are tough, and you may work with them for years and years before you actually see progress. Maybe some of them don’t ever show growth while they are a part of your ministry. Yes, there are some students who seem to grow in their relationship with God all the time, but there are other times when you don’t have anyone like that. That’s not always your fault, either. Some students are just hard eggs to crack.
These are the times when I seek out something within the church or home that I can do with my hands. Sometimes this involves fixing a computer or a network issue. Other times, it is as simple as cleaning a room or closet. Maybe it even looks like cooking dinner or washing my car. The point is that I need times when I can see end-results. I need times when I feel I have actually accomplished something. Sure, I know that I’m accomplishing things within ministry. Rather, I know God is accomplishing things through me. Nonetheless, I don’t always see any physical evidence right away. It might take days, months, or even years to see fruit from my labor. With many hands-on projects, you can see a result after you have completed a series of steps.
Personally, I don’t think this is wrong. Yes, my heart is still there for student ministry, and I don’t feel God calling me into a different job. The truth is that sometimes I want to see progress faster than I do. In order to see that, it helps to fix something, make something, or clean something. I get my “fix,” and I move on, able to focus again on ministry.
To all you ministry people, do you find yourself in a similar situation? What are some examples of projects you do? Or, do you have another way of getting through the slow times of growth in ministry?
Hey, everyone. It’s “Orange Blogger Week” again! There are a lot of things going on in the world of Orange. Not only have we been moving forward even more at our church, but reThink is changing things up a bit with their entire service. One of the biggest things is that “YouLead” is now called “Stuff Leaders Want.” This is a service for leaders, and not for just any leader. This is for those who want to grow and help their teams grow. In fact, I am now a blogger for “Stuff Leaders Want.” Throughout the year, you will see posts from me about different things I’ve learned and used from this service. So, get ready for that. Also, as a nice addition, reThink has given me a code to provide you with a $50 discount! Just use the code YLBLOG149 at check-out.
Also, don’t forget that Orange Conference registration opens next Thursday, October 10! If you haven’t attended the OC before, you should definitely check it out. Even if you haven’t bought into the entire Orange strategy yet, it is still an awesome time of growth in ministry. I’m hoping to go as an official blogger again this next year, so if that works out, you can check out my daily posts from the conference as well. Even so, it is much better to go in person, so do yourself a favor and look into it.
Here is a list of others you can check out this week, who are also blogging for Orange:
My grandfather played a huge impact on my life. He was my spiritual mentor. There is one story about him that has always stood out to me, though. Our Worship-Arts Minister and I recorded the story for our church, during our series on the book of First Peter. This particular Sunday (9.22.2013) was all about community, from I Peter 2.
One of the biggest events we do each year is our Photo Scavenger Hunt. It serves as our kick-off event for the new school year of Youth Group, and the students love it!! A good friend of mine recently asked for some basics on how we run our hunt each year. After I wrote up a rather long response to him, I thought maybe others could benefit from it. This information is by no means original with me, at least I don’t think it is, but maybe it can help you as you put together a similar event for your youth group.
First, we need to briefly answer the question, “what is a photo scavenger hunt?” Simply put, it is a normal scavenger hunt, but instead of collecting actual items, you take photos of said items. Our hunts are done in teams where they must take photos with specific items or doing certain things in a photo. Each item is worth a set amount of points, and the team who gets the most points at the end of the designated time wins.
As I see it, other than the FUN, there are six aspects to running a good photo scavenger hunt. So, here is how we run annual hunt based on the list, volunteers, teams, rules, judging, and the schedule:
The other day, I was sitting in Starbucks, working on some stuff for the Nintendo blog. A group of people were sitting beside me, and I thought I overheard them talking about church or ministry. This alone is rather uncommon to hear in New England, so I assumed I had just heard incorrectly. Finally, the group got up and began to leave. Just then, one of the ladies turned to me and said, “I think there is a website you should check out.” She proceeded to tell me about the Jehovah’s Witness website, saying that it had some great stuff to say about faith and why bad things happen in the world. She mentioned that she doesn’t know what I believe about all that stuff, and that is when I interrupted her and told her that I was a youth pastor. I believe she was surprised to hear it. However, she seemed to regroup quickly and told me a little bit about her group, where they plan to soon have a building, and asked about my church.
Now honestly, I could spend time in this blog post analyzing the differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christian Church, but that is not what I want to talk about. Instead, I would like to talk about what inspired me. To be honest, we do not hear about Christians doing this sort of thing very often. Or when it does happen, it is not a good way. This lady genuinely wanted to share something with me that she thought would benefit my life. She didn’t beat it over my head, shout it in my face, or force me to even listen. She just said that she knows of a website that she thinks I should check out. I think we, as Christians, need to learn from the Jehovah’s Witness example. We do not need to stand on street corners with blow horns, nor do we need to sit back and never mention Jesus’ name in public. There is a happy medium of genuinely loving our neighbors enough to tell them about the saving grace of Jesus, but not force it on them, and also not sitting and ignoring them. We have the best news of all time, but so often, we do not have the boldness to step out and actually share it with people who will truly benefit from it.
While this lady did not convince me to be a Jehovah’s Witness that day, she did set a good example for what her religion and faith stand for. I only wish that I could say the same thing about Christians I meet. Sure, it takes us stepping out of our comfort zones many times, but if that means that one more person knows about the saving grace of Jesus, isn’t it worth it? I mean, why was this lady the one who got up to speak to me, instead of me getting up to speak to her? I sit here as an example of someone who should be doing more, and my guess is that you, reader, are also in a similar situation. So, what are we going to do about it?