Guest Post: Love. Preach. Pray. Go.

brian-post-picPastoral Ministry is hard.

For those of us who’ve been called to such a responsibility, such a task, such a race, we understand the calling of “Pastor” is a glorious calling, but difficult; rewarding, but inconvenient; sweet, yet sometimes sour; smooth seas, but sometimes rough currents. Yes, the calling of Pastor is hard, but is glorious.

I have been asked to share a few thoughts on ministry. For Starters, I’m Brian Hancock, and I have had the privilege to serve the Lord as a youth director, Bible teacher, and now Student pastor at Neel Road Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. For nearly 11 years now, I’ve worked with the younger generation (from kindergarteners to college level students) to help them know Christ, and to grow in their walk with Him. It has been an incredible journey. Throughout ministry, I have seen agnostics find truth in Christ, drug addicts find hope in Christ, the depressed and lonely and outcast find identity in Christ. I’ve seen parents weep with joy as their son or daughter is baptized, thinking to themselves “I never thought this day would come.” Yes, God has done great things in these 10+ years, to Him be the Glory. Amen.

My current Pastorate, as I mentioned previously, is at Neel Road in NC. God has certainly moved here on Neel Road’s campus. To borrow a quote from our soon to be president, God has blessed “Big League.” I began ministry at Neel Road some 2 ½ years ago, In June 2014. As the months began to pass, our attendance began to increase from an average of 3 to 10 to 15 to an average of 30, present day. Not only did our numbers increase, but God began saving people. In 2016 alone, our student ministry saw 19 salvations, and 9 baptisms. God truly has done something special here, and I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to have been able to see it.

How did this happen? What strategies of ministry were put in place that God has chosen to honor? Well, I’m going to try and share them below. I want to provide a preface before we continue, however. It is my heart’s desire that God get full glory from what he has done here. Brian Hancock didn’t do this: God did. Read and use these few truths below if you would like, but please understand these aren’t intended to take away from his Glorious grace and mercy. Now with that said, here are some thoughts.

It is my belief that the following truths must be present in order for any student ministry to grow and flourish:

Love. You have to love your kids. Now, I’m not talking merely vocalizing your love for them. Loving your students takes action. It takes sacrifice, of your time and energy. Its answering the phone at 2am instead of putting it on silent. It’s meeting that boy or girl who is suffering from a broken heart at the office on your day off. It’s telling your students the sometimes inconvenient truths from Gods word when you see they are slipping in their walk. Its loving them with action, not just words. At Neel Road Student Ministry, there is a true since of family. We have pushed and pushed and pushed this since day one. With that since of family, comes love: for each other, and for their God. As pastors, we must model what it means to love, regardless of how convenient or inconvenient it sometimes can be. If you resolve to do this, you will see your students respect you, respect each other, and pursue their God on such a deeper, more intimate level. Learn to exemplify your love for them beyond your words.

Preach. I have never met a pastor that disliked preaching. The problem, however, is pastors aren’t preaching anymore. Instead, pastors have traded the pulpit for a soap box OR have used the 20 minutes they have to speak as a self help session or college lecture. Many youth pastors, out of fear of offending or hurting a student’s feelings, will water down messages and avoid certain passages of scripture. DON’T BE THAT GUY. Students don’t need to hear how good they are, because for anyone who has an ounce of Bible education knows that humans are totally depraved. Students need to hear that. They need to hear that we are sinners, and how a loving God came and died for their sin. They need to hear messages that are brought with passion, and boldness. Students need Pastors who aren’t afraid to be REAL. They need to hear that REPENTANCE is still important. Don’t be the pastor who preaches “ear candy” every time you have your students together. Give your students meat from God’s Word. Give them what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. If you preach soft, you’ll produce soft sheep, and no pastor wants that. They want students that are bold, and live with conviction. Preach hard and boldly. Preach the Bible fully. Preach with conviction and tears, and watch God work.

Pray. John Piper once said that “Until you know that life is war, you’ll never know what prayer is for.” Prayer is KEY. If you aren’t praying for God to send students and for God to work and bless and keep your ministry established on his Word and truth, your ministry will fall like a house of cards. Ministry is too hard for any man to do it alone, and only through the blessing of God will any effort prosper. Ministry is a war, and the war is life and death. We all want to produce students who are prayer warriors, but don’t expect that if we aren’t constantly hitting our knees. Pray, pray, and pray some more. The more you seek him, not only will your confidence grow through him, but he will honor your prayers. Pray more, and watch what happens.

Go. Any healthy student ministry involves itself in missions and ministry outside of the church building. Local, national, and international missions and ministry opportunities are ways to expose them to practical ways of fulfilling the great commission. I tell my students constantly that we aren’t saved to “sit, saturate and sulk, but to serve, sacrifice, and suffer.” What better way to serve than through missions and ministry. Our students volunteer once a month at the local soup kitchen, we participate in non profit efforts around town throughout the year. On a national level, our students travel to Washington DC for a week of on street evangelism during the summer. Training is throughout the year, and students are required to meet certain criteria to participate. Foreign missions is something we are still working toward. We are giving faithfully to the IMB (International missions board) that goes to support foreign missionaries. Get your students involved in missions and ministries, challenging them to reach a world outside the convenience of the four walls of your church, and watch them grow exponentially for the kingdom.

How are you doing with loving your students? Is your preaching passionate? Do you make prayer time a priority? Is missions and ministry outside of the church building a focus for you in 2017? Take these truths, and consider them. These past 11 years have been great, and I look forward to the next 50. God bless you, may he keep you and your ministry, and may he always seek to serve him for HIS GLORY, and for the JOY of others.

Brian Hancock is the student pastor at Neel Road Baptist Church in Salisbury, NC. He is a graduate of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Matthews, NC. Brian has written a book called “Disciplined: Foundations of a Disciplined Disciple” which are available free of charge. Brian has spoken at several local churches, youth conferences, Bible colleges and Christian schools. Brian may be reached at bhancock@neelroad.org.

The Healthy Student Pastor

z8bka7hqa3i-jordan-mcqueenStudent ministry can be a very demanding and challenging thing (especially if you’re doing in a full-time role). The constant demand of students and parents who need your attention never ends. The hours can be odd with most of your events happening at night or on weekends. It can become draining as you try to keep your mid-week program fresh and attractive week in and week out. On top of your weekly program it seems like there is always another event right around the corner.

But don’t get me wrong, student ministry is an absolute joy. I am honored God has called me to full-time student ministry and He has given me an amazing church to do it in. However, I have come to realize that student ministry is often a very demanding area of ministry that requires you to be healthy. I’m talking spiritual, relational, physical, and emotional health. Being healthy in all areas of life is a must for student pastors.

Spiritual. The spiritual health of the student pastor is of utmost importance. It’s important to themselves, their families, their church, and their students. If a student pastor is not spiritually healthy the students and the ministry, along with many other things, will suffer. A student pastor must keep their relationship with God as their first priority. This means walking with God daily and growing closer to Him. This means consistently getting into God’s Word on a daily basis for spiritual nourishment and strength. One pastor shares some wise words in regards to this area – “Don’t neglect your heart. Spend time in the Word, pray, and let God speak to you. Carve out time each day for this” (from the book Growing Young, page 62).

Relational. Student pastors must also be healthy relationally. I think this first includes their families. Student pastors must never sacrifice their families on the altar of their ministry. Far too often I see student pastors who are giving everything they got to their ministries while their family suffers the consequences. Loving and leading your family should always comes first. This also includes friendships. Student pastors must strive to have solid friendships outside the walls of their ministries. This provides an outlet for the student pastor to hangout with friends with no ministry agenda attached.

Emotional. The emotional health of the student pastor is also very important. It’s easy for a student pastor to be focused on the emotional needs of others (students, parents, volunteers, etc.) while neglecting their own emotional health. The crazy hours and demands of student ministry can cause the student pastor to experience burnout or even depression in some cases. The demands of student ministry can also cause stress and anxiety. It’s important the student pastor takes these things seriously and seeks help when they need it. This is where having some solid friends outside of the student ministry can help. They can be a safe place to go for healing. Also, student pastors should never be ashamed of seeking professional counseling or even pastoral counseling from another pastor. These are avenues God can use to strengthen you and get you emotionally healthy. It’s also important the student pastor has a hobby outside of ministry that serves as an outlet for them to refresh and relax. This will help them maintain emotional health.

Physical. This is often the area of health student pastors neglect the most. In the midst of eating way too much terrible food with students, student pastors must strive to keep themselves in good shape. This goes beyond just eating right, which is important, but also includes things like regularly working out and getting rest. This also includes making sure the student pastor takes a day off. We all need a sabbath (a day to rest from work). Student pastors must not neglect taking a day off to rest, which is closely tied to their physical health.

As you can see, student pastors need to be healthy in multiple areas. A student pastor that is healthy in these areas will be a blessing to their families, church, ministry, and students.

What I Teach My Students About Alcohol

img_0706A few weeks ago I took a few minutes in one of my talks to address our students about drinking alcohol. We were in a series on Noah and was covering the passage where we read about Noah getting drunk. I used this as an opportunity to help them see what the Bible says about alcohol.

I wanted to communicate three important things in regards to what the Bible says about alcohol. There was plenty more I could have said but I believe these three points give students a good foundation with what the Bible says about alcohol.

Alcohol is a gift from God that can be enjoyed. To anyone who believes drinking is a sin this statement may come as a shock. But the Bible is clear, alcohol is actually a gift from God. Psalm 104:14-15 (ESV) the Bible says, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” I want my students to see that alcohol, just like any other beverage, is a gift from God that we can enjoy. However, there are certain things about alcohol to keep in mind even though it’s a gift from God. First, we are expected as Christians to obey the law. The law says someone can’t drink until they are 21. To drink before that age is breaking the law, which is sin. Second, there are times when drinking may not be wise. So even though it’s a gift from God, it’s a gift we must use properly and in the right way. Like any gift from God, alcohol can be abused which leads us to the next point.

Drinking alcohol to the point of getting drunk is a sin. The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking. That’s something we have the freedom to enjoy wisely. However, the Bible clearly condemns drunkenness. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) begins with saying “And do not get drunk with wine.” Clearly getting drunk is a sin. I don’t want to teach my students drinking is a sin because the Bible doesn’t teach that. However, I do want to teach them getting drunk is a sin because the Bible clearly teaches that. It’s important to not only teach students getting drunk is a sin, but we need to teach them why it’s a sin. This leads us to the next point.

Getting drunk is a sin because you are allowing something else other than God to control you. When someone gets drunk they are under the control of that alcohol. That’s why people act a different way when they get drunk. The alcohol is controlling their emotions and behavior. As a Christian, we should never be in the spot where something other than the Holy Spirit is controlling us. Ephesians 5:18 (ESV) goes on to say “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is to always be controlling us, not something else. I want my students to understand the “why” behind the Biblical teaching that getting drunk is a sin.

If you want to listen to the portion of my talk where I covered this content with my students watch the video below. You can skip to 4:38 to pick up where I started talking about what the Bible says about alcohol.

A few years ago I posted another post here on my site about alcohol and teenagers that gained a lot of attention. Click here to check that post out.

End of The Year Youth Ministry Resource Bundle

Recently Terrace Crawford launched a new site called Ministry Downloads. I want to share an excellent bundle he has available starting Black Friday. The bundle includes $500 worth of youth ministry resources. The bundle includes customizable teaching series, Bible studies, and games. It also includes some graphics, forms, and other documents. The best part is you can get all of this for just $49. All these great resources have been created by Terrace and are designed for the local church. I’d encourage you to download this bundle and take advantage of these great resources. Follow the link below to purchase and download this bundle.

Click Here to Purchase and Download This Bundle

Terrace Crawford is an entrepreneur and youth worker-at large, with an affinity for Social Media. Crawford, named as one of the Top 100 Christian Leaders to Follow on Twitter, serves church leaders (particularly youth workers) through his blog, and weekly podcast, This Week in Youth Ministry (available on iTunes). Terrace frequently speaks on the topics of Leadership, Social Media, and Youth Ministry. He authored “Going Social: A Practical Guide on Social Media for Church Leaders (Beacon Hill Press)”, and was recently named as Young Influencer of the Month (July 2016) by Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources.

Book Review: Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry

gospelcenteredym_205_316_90There are a few books I consider “must reads” for people in student ministry (if you want to know what they are ask me). Recently I read a book I would add to that list and it’s called Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry. It’s one of the most theological and practical books I have ever read in regards to student ministry.

One of the strengths of this book is the variety of voices. Every chapter focuses on a different area of student ministry and each chapter is written by someone who has a passion and gifting in that area. Each chapter is written pretty much in the same way – a section on how the Gospel informs and shapes that area of student ministry and a section on how to practically grow in that area of student ministry. Also, at the end of each chapter there is a list of recommended books on the subject of the chapter.

Two of my favorite chapters were Eric McKiddie’s chapter on expositional teaching and Tom Olson’s chapter on singing. All the chapters in this book were excellent but these two were the ones that impacted me the most.

In McKiddie’s chapter, he argues that teaching the Bible is the main task of anyone in student ministry. He says, “While fun is an indispensable part of youth ministry, your main task is to convince your students, week after week, why they need Jesus and to show how the Gospel profoundly after every area of life” (page 55). He believes expositional teaching is the best method for this. After giving his reasons for expositional teaching in student ministry he gives some practical steps in how to craft a Biblical expositional sermon for students. His steps serve as great reminders for people newer to writing sermons as well as to seasoned veterans. Olson’s chapter on singing was another one that I really enjoyed. He argues that corporate worship should be vital a part of student ministry. He says, “It’s not just a warm-up for the message or a means to corral hyperactive teenagers. God has made singing important. Singing is vital for the health of our students and the strength of our ministries and, in harmony with strong teaching, singing will get the word of Christ dwelling richly in their lives” (page 142).

I could say more about these two chapters and the rest of the book but I’d rather you grab a copy and read it for yourself. If you’re in student ministry I’d highly suggest this book for you and your team.