What I pray before I speak to students

Every Wednesday Night before the students show up, right after I print out the final draft of my message, I pray this prayer. Maybe not word for word, but this same idea every time.

 

Lord,

Thank You for the opportunity to speak to these students that You have given to this ministry.

I am not worthy of speaking Your truth into these kids’ lives, yet You make me worthy through Your grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thank You for the time and the resources You have allowed me to have to prepare this message.

Forgive me for anything I may have overlooked in my message.

Forgive me for the times this week that I could have been studying more but instead I was scrolling though Facebook & Twitter or justified a lack of preparation to something that came up this week.

Forgive me when I rushed through my analogies or come up with stuff on the spot that may or may not work well with the message.

Purge any arrogance in my heart. Remind me that the only reason I am behind that pulpit tonight is because You have placed me there. Lord, remind me that it is not about:

  • me,
  • how many students laugh at my jokes,
  • if students think I am relevant,
  • if I’m looking fresh tonight,
  • or if the color scheme for my PowerPoint presentation is really good.

Remind me that the main reason I am up there is to point them back to You; to make much of Your name and to lead them to be disciples and make disciples for You.

Lord, help me not to find my value in the attendance number or returning visitors, but to find value in being faithful to Your calling in my life.

Be glorified tonight! I pray that You will do a work in the students’ hearts and that You speak through me.

In Your Son’s great name,

Amen

Three practices that will explode your Youth Ministry

While I was in college at Liberty University, I took a class once a week for 3 hours on Prayer. It was one of my favorite classes I took while in school, and one of my favorite professors I had in college taught it, but a few years out, I wish I could go back and take the class all over again, because something that I know, and that you know, is that Prayer is one of the most important aspects of being in Ministry.

To be perfectly honest, Prayer has been one of my weakest points the last few months. That’s something God has really brought to the forefront with me the last few days I reflect on the past year of Ministry and look forward to the next one. I’m not an expert on Prayer, and I’m not an expert on Youth Ministry. But what I do know is that if you’re not praying, you wont have a real ministry. You can run amazing programs, and you can probably experience booming attendance. But it won’t amount to anything in the Kingdom if you’re not doing it with and for God.

I know that I want to be used by God to build his Kingdom. And I know that what that means for me in Boston is probably a lot different than what it looks like for some of my friends in Arizona or Arkansas. Thats why I know, if I want true ministry to students, and I want to make Jesus known to the thousands of students within 10 miles of our church, I’ve got to focus on doing these three things:

1| Daily Pray over my Students

We do prayer requests at Small Group, and we pray then. But when was the last time you took out a list of 10 of your students first thing in the morning and just prayed over them? The act of Intercession is one that I think is too easily forgotten in Youth Ministry, and I think it’s time we bring it back.

2| Pray first, then Act

When Nehemiah first heard about the state of Jerusalem, his first reaction was to Pray. He sought God and his wisdom first before leaning on his own understanding. It’s so easy to fix things ourselves. Last week, we thought we were $5,000 short for our mission fund, unable to buy some of our plane tickets. My first thing I did was to ask some friends to pray for me, and then I went and fixed it. I couldn’t even take time myself to pray, I just had to get things done. I’m painting this saying in giant letters on the wall across from my office, because I don’t want to forget my place in the Kingdom of God.

3| Pray as a Team

When was the last time your volunteers prayed, other than for a service 15 minutes before it started. What would it do for your team, your students, your ministry, your church if you gathered together to pray for these things with no agenda and no service immediately following? Everything that we do should for God should start in Prayer, and our team should be saturated in prayer by us, their leaders, and our team should be saturating in prayer those we lead.

So I’m not perfect. I fail in the area of prayer more than I would like to. But I know that if I do these three things, not with the intention of growing our ministry, but rather with a right heard and mind, our ministry will explode for the Kingdom. God has some great things in store, and I can’t wait to talk to him about them.

Planning a Mission Trip: Making the Most of Every Opportunity

While most of the heavy lifting in planning a mission trip comes in the “pre-trip” planning stages (picking a location, setting the budget, picking the team, and nailing down the details), the importance of planning what happens ON THE TRIP cannot be overlooked. Some of the most incredible things that have happened on mission trips have been spontaneous and unplanned, but I do think there are some general principles and ideas that can foster an atmosphere where those “God” moments are likely to occur.

What follows is a hodge podge of ideas from my 12 mission trip experiences. Some are general concepts to help you foster a spiritual atmosphere, some are just tips and tricks, and some are just “the way we do it” that may not fit in your context, but my hope is that something here enhances your upcoming trip.

1. Plan ahead and plan again
By planning ahead in every aspect, you will enable yourself to be a better, more engaged, more relational leader and will allow you to deal with problems as they arise.  For more planning tips, check out the other posts in this series.

2. Build spiritual momentum through daily devotions
Spiritual growth SHOULD be the reason you planned a mission trip in the first place, so set the tone by having your students do guided, well-written personal devotions each morning. Through this simple action, you can accomplish so many things. You help students build the habit of reading their Bible, you focus their attention on heavenly matters, and you can use the devos as a part of your evening teaching time. This is one of the most important things I do on each trip. If you need some great mission trip devos to get you started, check out the youthmin.org shop.

3.  Make evening debriefing a priority
Students need a chance to work through the events of the day, to laugh together, and to dig into the Word together. The evening teaching and debriefing time is probably the most important thing you can do to leverage spiritual force. Prioritize accordingly.

4.  Be aware of the “tired” factor. Don’t push too hard
A week of travel, long hours, hard work, and sleeping on air mattresses will take its toll, so be careful. If you push too hard, you may have a group of exhausted students that don’t want to work, have short tempers, and aren’t really open to God’s voice. Make sure you are watchful and vigilant about sleep, including enforcing “lights out.”

5.  Remember what’s most important
I always remind my group throughout the trip that our main purpose is never to build a fence, finish the drywall, or complete the building project. The truth is that if your group doesn’t finish the project, someone else probably will. Don’t neglect the more important, spiritual growth aspects of the trip for work or anything else. Stay focused and attentive to the more important matters, and guard them closely.

6. Give students ownership of daily tasks
One great way to build in ownership on your trip is to involve the students in the daily tasks. We assign roles to all of our students and they always do a great job. Students serve in the areas of food preparation, trash detail, setup and teardown of tables and chairs, clean up, sack lunch prep, and more. Trust your students and watch them flourish.

7. Prayer partners can empower your students spiritually
“Prayer partners” was a tradition that was already in place when I arrived at Hazelwood, but I have continued it because of the great spiritual and unifying benefits. Each student or adult on the trip is assigned the name of another student or adult as a prayer partner. Throughout the week, they are instructed to pray for that person, to give them notes of encouragement, and to give them some little “gifts” secretly. Then, on the last night, we have a “revealing” party so everyone finds out their prayer partner. It’s honestly one of the best things we do, and I encourage you to consider it for your next trip.

8. Don’t be afraid to punt in a tough situation. Plan B is okay
Obviously, every trip hits a speed bump along the way. Plans fall through, communication lines get crossed, and people let you down. Don’t be afraid to move on to Plan B when you need to. Embrace the chaos, just make sure you HAVE a Plan B.

9. Plan fun activities and tourist opportunities
Every trip we take involves some tourist element or another, which provides a great atmosphere for fun and relational growth. Often, we arrive Saturday night, attend church wherever we are with the people we are working with, and then use Sunday afternoon and evening to enjoy some fun together. Talk to your local contact to get some creative ideas, and have a blast!

10. Technology can be your friend
In this day and age, there are lots of technological resources that can enhance your mission trip. We use our facebook group to post pictures and updates throughout the week, which drives parents and students to our group for future events. When students have their cell phones (not every trip, but often in our context), we encourage our students to upload their photos to the group as well. In addition, we use a texting service to make sure our students know what’s happening throughout the trip. With our new texting service (www.sendhub.com), we will also create a parent group for each trip so that I can give text updates throughout the trip. Find yourself some great technological resources, and use them well!

These are just a few of the tricks I’ve learned along the way, but I’d be eager to hear what suggestions you would have from your experiences.

Planning a Mission Trip: Making the Most of Every Opportunity

While most of the heavy lifting in planning a mission trip comes in the “pre-trip” planning stages (picking a location, setting the budget, picking the team, and nailing down the details), the importance of planning what happens ON THE TRIP cannot be overlooked. Some of the most incredible things that have happened on mission trips have been spontaneous and unplanned, but I do think there are some general principles and ideas that can foster an atmosphere where those “God” moments are likely to occur.

What follows is a hodge podge of ideas from my 12 mission trip experiences. Some are general concepts to help you foster a spiritual atmosphere, some are just tips and tricks, and some are just “the way we do it” that may not fit in your context, but my hope is that something here enhances your upcoming trip.

1. Plan ahead and plan again
By planning ahead in every aspect, you will enable yourself to be a better, more engaged, more relational leader and will allow you to deal with problems as they arise.  For more planning tips, check out the other posts in this series.

2. Build spiritual momentum through daily devotions
Spiritual growth SHOULD be the reason you planned a mission trip in the first place, so set the tone by having your students do guided, well-written personal devotions each morning. Through this simple action, you can accomplish so many things. You help students build the habit of reading their Bible, you focus their attention on heavenly matters, and you can use the devos as a part of your evening teaching time. This is one of the most important things I do on each trip. If you need some great mission trip devos to get you started, check out the youthmin.org shop.

3.  Make evening debriefing a priority
Students need a chance to work through the events of the day, to laugh together, and to dig into the Word together. The evening teaching and debriefing time is probably the most important thing you can do to leverage spiritual force. Prioritize accordingly.

4.  Be aware of the “tired” factor. Don’t push too hard
A week of travel, long hours, hard work, and sleeping on air mattresses will take its toll, so be careful. If you push too hard, you may have a group of exhausted students that don’t want to work, have short tempers, and aren’t really open to God’s voice. Make sure you are watchful and vigilant about sleep, including enforcing “lights out.”

5.  Remember what’s most important
I always remind my group throughout the trip that our main purpose is never to build a fence, finish the drywall, or complete the building project. The truth is that if your group doesn’t finish the project, someone else probably will. Don’t neglect the more important, spiritual growth aspects of the trip for work or anything else. Stay focused and attentive to the more important matters, and guard them closely.

6. Give students ownership of daily tasks
One great way to build in ownership on your trip is to involve the students in the daily tasks. We assign roles to all of our students and they always do a great job. Students serve in the areas of food preparation, trash detail, setup and teardown of tables and chairs, clean up, sack lunch prep, and more. Trust your students and watch them flourish.

7. Prayer partners can empower your students spiritually
“Prayer partners” was a tradition that was already in place when I arrived at Hazelwood, but I have continued it because of the great spiritual and unifying benefits. Each student or adult on the trip is assigned the name of another student or adult as a prayer partner. Throughout the week, they are instructed to pray for that person, to give them notes of encouragement, and to give them some little “gifts” secretly. Then, on the last night, we have a “revealing” party so everyone finds out their prayer partner. It’s honestly one of the best things we do, and I encourage you to consider it for your next trip.

8. Don’t be afraid to punt in a tough situation. Plan B is okay
Obviously, every trip hits a speed bump along the way. Plans fall through, communication lines get crossed, and people let you down. Don’t be afraid to move on to Plan B when you need to. Embrace the chaos, just make sure you HAVE a Plan B.

9. Plan fun activities and tourist opportunities
Every trip we take involves some tourist element or another, which provides a great atmosphere for fun and relational growth. Often, we arrive Saturday night, attend church wherever we are with the people we are working with, and then use Sunday afternoon and evening to enjoy some fun together. Talk to your local contact to get some creative ideas, and have a blast!

10. Technology can be your friend
In this day and age, there are lots of technological resources that can enhance your mission trip. We use our facebook group to post pictures and updates throughout the week, which drives parents and students to our group for future events. When students have their cell phones (not every trip, but often in our context), we encourage our students to upload their photos to the group as well. In addition, we use a texting service to make sure our students know what’s happening throughout the trip. With our new texting service (www.sendhub.com), we will also create a parent group for each trip so that I can give text updates throughout the trip. Find yourself some great technological resources, and use them well!

These are just a few of the tricks I’ve learned along the way, but I’d be eager to hear what suggestions you would have from your experiences.

On Our Knees

One of my old volunteers was in town for a doctors appointment.  He’s one of my favorite people on the planet, and always a huge encouragement.  A few months down the road, he will take his entire family across the ocean to help start an online degree program to train pastors in a post-Christian culture.  Did I want fajitas with this guy?  Enough to pay for both of us.

An hour later, the drinks are empty and the cheese dip has cheese-skin so thick I could take a nap on it, but we’re still talking ministry, academia, and family.  I told him how discouraged I’ve been over the past few months; “just one of the parts of being in ministry.”  He prodded, and I shared how inadequate I feel – if I’m doing my job, if our ministry is honoring Christ and being strategic and intentional, we should see growth.  Not necessarily numerical growth, or growth in width, but at least spiritual growth in the students, growth in depth.  This season?  I’ve seen neither.  It may be I’m too critical or expect too much, but I told him I felt we were stagnant in both directions.

His response?  “How much do you spend each day praying about that.” 

“Well forget you, I don’t need your criticisms,” was my first thought.  It lasted less than half a second, and then reality hit like a ton of bricks.  I prayed regularly for my students and ministry…every Wednesday afternoon.  That’s the youth pastor equivalent of praying right before a test.

When was the last time I closed my door, shut off my computer, and fell on my knees on behalf of my students?  MONTHS, if I’m being honest.

My question for our little community of people burdened and called to shepherd their generation is this: how influential is prayer in making your calendar each week?  Even more so, what have you found the most personally rewarding prayer methods (for students specifically? Journalling? Art?) in light of your own personal makeup?

It’s something I’m deeply convicted by, especially having called my students to live a life of prayer.  I have the head knowledge and know it’s vital, but it gets lost in my day.  I could write a multi-volume book on “valid” excuses, but at the end of the day, I haven’t been intentional.  God is bigger than my mistakes, but that doesn’t mean I keep making them.

As a side note, he challenged me, in light of all the work, school work, and family plates I have spinning, to read through The Kneeling Christian.  If anyone else wants to take this adventure with me, hit me up on Twitter.  We will go to our knees for our students together.

Editor's Picks 4.19.13 – Dr. Piper taught me to focus on more than memes

We asked our team this week to recommend one thing they wanted other Youth Pastors to know about it. Here’s what they gave us:

It’s OK to call yourself a Christian by Lillian Daniel

Losing Focus on why you do what you do by Nicholas D’amico

More than Memes by Jason Watson

7 things I’ve learned from Dr. John Piper by Mark Driscoll

Bibles to give graduating Sr.’s by Austin McCann

 Gospel-Centered Manhood by Joseph Rhea

You need a rest by Kolby Milton




pray for boston Lastly, keep the city of Boston in prayer. This isn’t a youthmin.org thing, but my church just outside the city will be having a prayer service tonight. If you want to join us, you’re more than welcome to pray with us tonight.