Your Testimony is Important

When was the last time you told your story? Now, when I way story, I don’t just mean, “Jesus saved me.” No, no. I mean your STORY. 

Colossians 1:13 says, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.”

Stop. Go back and read that about 10 times. I’ll wait…





Good stuff, right? That is your story! A daring rescue from the grip of the enemy. A sweet welcome into the Kingdom of Light. 

I’ve heard you spin the story to center around yourself. You are significant. You matter. But, you are not the star of this epic adventure. Do not steal His glory. Please. 

I’ve heard you downplay your story. As though there were such a thing as an insignificant rescue mission. Have you ever seen a story of a hero stepping out of their way in order to save a helpless one and not had your heart swell? Even the simplest version of the story stops us in our tracks and makes us wonder. Stop comparing your story to the next person’s. You were rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of the Son. When you downplay what He has done for you, you are saying that the rescue is unimpressive. Do not steal His glory. Please.

Christian, the world needs to hear your story. Your friends need to hear your story. They need it because they need Him. They may be trapped in the fortress of sin, having been duped like every other person who has ever breathed in this spoiled air. They may not have heard that the fairy tales are a shadow of something true. Tell them. Remind them, there is a Royal One who left His throne to rescue the broken ones and make them whole. 

Tell your story and celebrate His heroics.


This post was submitted by Erin Woods, a member of our YouthMin Community. Erin is the Associate Director of Student Ministry at First Presbyterian Church of Kingwood, in Kingwood, TX. She regularly blogs at Truths of Becoming.

 

Career vs. Calling: Making It Clear

We just wrapped up our Roundtable Tuesday and had a great discussion on Youth Ministry and the differences between Career and Calling. I wanted to follow up and write a little more about what I believe.

Calling

I truly believe that all Christ-followers are called into ministry. When you follow Christ he calls you to minister to the people around you, starting with your family, your work, your school, your city, your state, then to the nations! We see this in Matthew 28:18-20:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

God calls us all to minister once we follow Christ; I think through prayer and growth in your relationship with Jesus He gives you a more specific calling or a heart for a certain group of people. For some that calling/heart is for teens, children, adults, a different nation, and so forth.

As for making your calling a career, that is between you and God. Benjamin Graham Read said it best the other day at the Roundtable that (and I paraphrase),

“Some youth pastors would make great volunteers in a Youth Ministry, but the things a Youth Pastor is called to do require more commitment and sacrifice than they are willing to make. ” (Roundtable #16)

Career 

I believe that if your calling is to be translated vocationally in a church somewhere, that God will open those doors for you and give you the tools to do so.  Yet, ultimately, I believe that God has called you to minister to a certain group, and that no matter what you do for your “career,” you should use your “calling” to impact the group you are called to minister to where you are!

At the Roundtable, I stated, “If God lead me to some other job/career that took me out of youth ministry, I would still pour into the teens wherever I was.”

Just serve where you are, and follow God faithfully day to day and remember that “…I am with you always, to the end of age.” (Matthew 28:20)

 

What are your thoughts? Did this post help you? Leave us a comment below and let us know.

Giving Constructive Criticism

Confrontation.  It’s hard, it’s messy, but it’s needed.

So how do you give constructive criticism to someone in a way that isn’t rejected? I’m going to present a method to give it in a way that makes the other person feel like “Hey, I’m doing a good job, I just need to work on a few things” rather than “I’m a piece of crap and I need to go move back in with my mommy.”

It’s called the Feedback Sandwich.

It’s as simple as this: Begin with a praise.  Give the critique.  Then end with a praise.

But…be careful not to turn the feedback sandwich into a “You’re Awesome.  You suck. You’re Awesome.” There needs to be balance in what you say.

The format goes: “Name, praise; YET (never say but) critique. If this happens, that praise will be even more praise-y, because you are so praise-y.” (See? lots of praise!)

Here are some examples:

Have a volunteer who never tells you when they’re coming or not coming?  Joe, our teens really love you and get so excited when you are here; yet, you can be here so randomly that even I don’t know when you’re coming.  If you can give me a schedule or just let me know when you can’t be here, we can work together in harvesting your gifts so that we are more effective and can reach more kids and impact the Kingdom.

Have a student leader who is struggling with some sin?  Jane, you are a natural-born leader and your peers really look up to you; yet, they can see that you are struggling with this sin.  If you push through and don’t let it hold you back, you can be a even greater example of perseverance and strength to your friends.

Have a pastor who is micromanaging you?  James, I love that you are so invested in our ministry and that you’re not one of those pastors who sits and the sidelines and doesn’t care; yet, I feel like I want to be given a chance to do things more independently.  If I succeed, your validation of me will mean the world, plus it will give you a chance to focus on tasks that really need it.

Genius, huh?

Sometimes it can be hard to find something praise-worthy about that person.  One of the wonderful people in my life who disciple me recently told me, “Sometimes, even if we can’t stand a person, we need to focus on the good traits they have–traits that remind of us God’s traits.”  God is creative, loving, consistent, vocal, active, and countless more wonderful things. We are made in his image, and sometimes we need to remind each other of how we resemble God. What better compliment is that?

And remember, this isn’t fool-proof. There will be those people who reject critique in every single form and who don’t do well in confrontation. I think that’s when you need to go all Matthew 18 on them.  Good luck.

Now…go make me a sandwich.

Have you tried this?  What are some ways that you have effectively given criticism?

Youth Pastors and Self Promotion

How many times have I unfollowed someone on Twitter because they link to their blog every hour?

How many times have I rolled my eyes in a Facebook group for youth pastors because I ask a question, and instead of interaction I get linked to a blog?

How many times have I had a conversation with a youth pastor, and all they can talk about is their accomplishments?

It’s annoying, guys.  But it’s also pretty accurate of what most of us do at times.  Youth pastors, and pastors in general, love to promote themselves.  Why is this?

The Psychology

Youth pastors, by spiritual nature, are teachers and desire to contribute knowledge to their community.

Sometimes at church we might get shut down by a committee, pastors, or even our students.  And perhaps we are insecure; when things aren’t going so hot at church, we over-talk the things we are proud of.  We try to contribute to a community of other youth pastors that can see we have some strengths; strengths that our churches can overlook.

Youth pastors are also used to trying to promote their youth group and begging people to check out their church, web page, or event.  So it makes sense that when we post a blog, we begin begging people to read it.

The Problem

Pride creeps in and tells the pastor that their blog or contribution to the youth pastor community is their identity.  Pride tells them that if they get 100 retweets or comments on their blog, then they are valuable and worthy.

And others can see this pride–it’s redundant when someone fills up my feed with their blog posts and nothing else.  It’s annoying when I ask somebody for help and they just link me to their blog.  It’s usually irrelevant as well.  And hopefully, it’s misrepresentative of the pastor.

As someone who has always struggled with finding her identity in the affirmation of others, it is draining for both my self and for those I interact with.  If I am only finding my confidence in others, where is God in this equation?

The Proper Ways to Promote

Promote your group.

You want to fill my news feed up with something you love?  Quit filling it up with yourself–fill it up with how much you love your students. Your students see your stuff too, and will see that you love ministry not because it makes you “famous” (in your own little world) but because you love students.

Promote community. 

Realize that you need community, not a pat on the back.  It’s great when someone retweets me or tells me I had a great post.  But what we really yearn for is interaction with that post.  So that means we need to interact with others as well.

Promote others.

You want to post links to great information? Great!  Post a variety of links to others’ blogs.  I love posting links to different stuff in my Twitter account; whether it’s youth ministry blogs, parenting sites, youth culture reports, etc.  This shows I don’t just love my blog and what have to say, but many others.

Promoting others is promoting learning and promoting humility.

What do you guys think?  Are you fed up with youth pastors promoting themselves?  How do you make sure that you “promote” your blog, website, or group effectively without becoming obsessed or annoying?

The Key to Good Communication in Youth ministry

I’d like to say that when I was a student in Youth Group, I always relayed pertinent information back to my parents. I mean, I never missed any events and I always knew what was going on… but if I’m honest, more of that probably had to do with my Dad being the Pastor and already having all of the information.

But out of that, it was easy for me to fall into the trap early on in ministry that if a student got a piece of paper with important announcements, surely this slip of paper would make it into the hands of their parents before the end of the night. I think a lot of times we as Youth Pastors hope this to be the case and we trust students with the information, assuming that they are independent and fully capable of taking care of such a simple task.

But they rarely are able to relay important information. And when we assume they are, ministry suffers.

One time I handed out calendars for the next few months at the door as students were leaving.  I gave one to a kid whose mom had parked literally 10 feet from the door; he got the calendar, walked right out the door to the car, got in, and lost it. I didn’t see him lose it, but his Mom never got it, and they couldn’t find it in the van, his room, his clothes, anywhere… It was just gone.

To this day, I have no idea what in the world happened.

I’ve learned a lot about communicating with parents since then and I still am learning, almost every week, how to better keep parents in the loop; not just with dates, but with purpose, vision, and ideals.

I won’t say I’ve discovered any key to this; but what I am reminded of, and am sure you sometimes need to be reminded of as well, is the basic fact and truth that in Youth Ministry the key to good communication is to over-communicate.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate, and then Communicate some more.

We have a few events coming up in the next few weeks that I know our students all know about, but how many of their parents know? How many of their parents know why we are doing them? What’s expected of their students? What’s the cost? Can their students can bring friends?

And something I’ve caught myself saying in the past, and maybe you have too, is that it’s ridiculous for me to have to send out an email about every event, and then write a post on the student ministry website about it, and then post it on Facebook, and then post it on Instagram, and then make hand-out flyers…just to communicate that next Wednesday we are having ice cream on a different part of the campus.

But here are a few things that I have come to rest in for communication in Student Ministry:

1 – I’ll never regret over-communicating, but I will almost always regret communicating poorly.

2 – The ministry will be better if I can pass this off to someone else. It might take more work to get everything prepared for them to make all the emails, blog posts, Instagram images, etc.; but that will just force me to have a more organized event, which in the end, will turn out better.

3 – The reality is that it probably takes less than an hour to over-communicate. Is it worth an hour a week to ensure that all of our students and their parents are going to be aware of what’s going on next week so that they can come, know where to go, not be left out of the loop, and not feel like I don’t care about them? If I ever find myself answering “no” to that question, I only hope it’s because I’m resigning ministry.

So what are your thoughts on communication in Youth Ministry? Would you agree that, for the most part, Youth Pastors are poor communicators? Why do you think students fail to relay information, and how can we help them with that?

The first step is always the hardest

What is God stirring in your heart?

The first few verses of the book of Ezra open with the king of Persia essentially granting freedom to the exiles of God that are within his reign the freedom to go home and to rebuild the temple of God. As Christians, we know the God we serve is great and able to do anything; for example, having the king of the nation who is holding captives, who just 70 years prior was responsible for the destruction of the temple and city, issue a decree setting those captives free to go rebuild.

But from a purely human perspective, how terrifying would this have been to live through? What if it was all just a trap? What would possess the king to issue this decree?

It’s one thing to have faith that God can do; it’s a completely different issue to have to actually take action on that faith, to take the first step into the unknown.

What I love about the first verses in Ezra is in verse 5, where it says

 [quote align="center" color="#999999"]Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose heart God had moved, to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. [/quote]

I love that part: everyone whose heart God had moved; because I know how God has moved my heart and the passions he has put on me that are unique to me, and I also know there are passions he has stirred within you that are unique to you. When I read this verse, it’s the implication of the ones whose hearts hadn’t been stirred and who saw this decree go out and were content to sit on the sidelines, that leaves me with a greater sense of purpose.

Has your heart been stirred up by God to do something? Do you see a problem that needs attention, and are you willing to take a step of Faith to act on it?

There are students in our youth groups who need to develop the faith to take that first step of action, to stand up for what is right and what God has stirred in their hearts. As we shared last week, many of these students are probably the ones who are the hardest to talk to, but are the ones who will be the first to move.

Others of us have had our hearts stirred up to do something wild in our ministries, build a new tradition, or destroy an old one. Sometimes God moves in us and shows us where we need to go, but we get paralyzed with fear in that first step: what if this wasn’t God showing me this, what if the church hates it, what if I lose budget money, if this goes wrong could I lose my job?

I can’t tell you what God is stirring you to do, but I can tell you that you shouldn’t let his voice stop at moving your heart. Take action.

The first step is always the hardest. But the hard steps that are certain to be on His path are far greater than a million easy ones not on His path.