3 Ways to Gift Your Volunteers this Christmas

Gifting Your VolunteersThe Christmas season is a busy time for everyone. It’s a time of year where everyone is running around shopping, attending parties, and visiting family members. As student pastors we must not forget our volunteers are crazy busy during this season. We have asked a lot of them up until this part of the year and they still will give us another semester of working with our students. Christmas is a great time to thank your volunteers and gift them in some way. Here are three ideas for gifting your volunteers this Christmas.

Send them a card with a gift card. This is the route I took this year. I personally hand wrote a thank you card to each of my volunteers and included $5 gift card to Starbucks. It was a simple way for me to say thank you by writing them a short note and giving them a small gift. There is something special about a hand written letter. I promise you that if you take the time to hand write a letter to your volunteers they will feel appreciated and it will be an instant win for you. Your volunteers do a ton in your ministry, the lest you can do is write them a note and give them a small gift.

Throw them a Christmas party. This is what one of our campuses at CCC did for their student ministry volunteers. They threw them a special Christmas party as a way to say thank you. This is a good idea because it is just another way to build community among your volunteer team. If you have a large enough house, this may be a great way to open up your home to your volunteers. The only negative thing in  doing something like this is your volunteers schedules are probably pretty filled up during this season so having a Christmas party may just be adding another event to their calendar. It could become a burden rather than a joy. But every volunteer team is different so this may be a great way for you to gift them this Christmas.

Give them a break! If you do anything for your volunteers this Christmas just give them some time off! Cancel youth group for a week or two so your volunteers can enjoy Christmas with their friends and family. Plus, your students and their families probably need a break as well! Just do something to give your volunteers a break. This is a great time for them to step back, catch their breath, and let them reenergize before starting a new semester with students.

These are just three ways you can gift your volunteers this Christmas. Volunteers play a vital role in your ministry so don’t miss out on a chance to say thank you during this Christmas season.

[Question] How do you use the Christmas season to say “thank you” to your volunteers?

Challenge Your Students to Do Something!

Rahab Xmas ChallengeAs your student ministry grows your going to be faced with a popular temptation among student ministries. Do we default to entertaining our students or see our job as equipping our students to live for God outside our student ministry? In many student ministries, big and small, student pastors have stopped challenging their students to do great things and have defaulted to just entertaining them when they are inside their youth room. So what happens is we have Christian students that come to youth group, soak up Bible knowledge and sing some worship songs, but leave with no challenge to do something better than just come back next week.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe our student gatherings, whether you do them during the week or on weekends, should be the front door of our ministries. They should be the big event that students and their friends love to come to. Because of this, we should have a standard of excellence in our programing, music, and teaching. It should be the thing that gets students plugged into our ministry and excited about what God is doing. But many times we stop there. We tend to think that when students start coming faithfully each week, seem to grasp our teaching, and engage in worship than we have hit the mark. But in reality that is just the beginning. So what’s the next step? I suggest that we need to start challenging our students to do greater things.

Many times students are looked at as the “next generation” rather than the church of now. A lot of times that is our faults because we have such low expectations of them. Maybe the reason our students are not doing anything greater than coming to our gatherings is because we don’t challenge them to do anything greater. As student pastors and youth workers let’s raise the bar and expect greater things out of students. Let’s give them opportunities to stretch their faith and do something that might be hard for them. I don’t know what that is for you, but I want to share with you what we have challenged our students to do and what we are expecting out of them.

During this Christmas season we are doing something with our students, across all four campuses, called the “Rahab Christmas Challenge.” Rahab is a ministry based out of Akron, OH that rescues women from prostitution and shares with them the life changing truth of the Gospel. One of the things this ministry would benefit greatly from is a 15 passenger van. This van would help them remove more women from their dark situation and bring them to a safe place so they can minister to them. We shared this vision with our students (with this video) and have asked them to raise enough money to purchase a van for this ministry. Through giving up a Christmas gift, fundraising, or giving their own money, we have asked students to make this happen. We have challenged them and believe they will respond!

What could you do to challenge your students to do something bigger than just show up and fill up a seat in your youth group? In his book Raising the Bar, Alvin Reid says, “The church-ministry in general, youth ministry, parents-has the opportunity to se a new standard for young people, to encourage their involvement in the Christian movement.” It’s more than just giving money, it’s challenging our students to live out their faith outside the walls of our student ministry.

Christmas Event Ideas for Your Student Ministry

It’s that time of year again. Christmas is coming up fast and we want to pull off a killer Christmas event for our students. Maybe you have a event you do every year and it is always a hit with your students. But maybe you are looking for something different this year. Or maybe you have never done a Christmas event with your students before and your trying to think of ideas. Here are a few Christmas events I have done with students and are usually a big hit.

Christmas Progressive Dinner. Let’s face it, students love to eat and if we provide them with free food they will come to almost anything! If you have never done a progressive dinner there pretty fun. You go from house to house and at each house you eat another part of the meal. I have done this with students in the past and it’s always a success. They enjoy hanging out with friends all night and enjoy stuffing their faces with tons of food. Also, this is a great event to get people in the church involved who normally don’t get involved with students. You can ask a few adults outside of your student ministry to host part of the dinner at their house. This allows them to meet the students and provide them food and a place to eat. This event will take some planning and preparation, but will be a hit with your students.

Christmas Party. Your probably thinking why I would even write this since everyone has a Christmas party around this time of year. But a simple Christmas party are always a hit with students. Provide some food, games, and a place to hangout and they are there! I suggest doing a Christmas party at someones house. This year we did a Christmas House Party at one of our volunteers homes. This is also a great event to encourage your students to invite some friends, especially friends who don’t know Jesus and are not connected to a local church. A Christmas party is a “safe” place many non-Christian students would feel comfortable coming to.

Christmas Theme Night. I’m a huge fan of theme nights (I shared a freebie awhile back that contains all you need to do a price is Right Theme Nightclick here for that). What I mean by theme nights is you take your normal mid-week or weekend service you have for your students, and you theme it around one big concept, such as Christmas. So everything from your decorations, games, and teaching is centered around Christmas. These can be great outreach type of nights as well. I suggest letting your students, maybe your student leaders, be involved in making this kind of night happen. Let them decorate, plan what the night look likes, and allow them to run with the theme idea. You will be surprised with what they come up with!

These are just three Christmas events I have done and that are always a success. If you need a Christmas event this year try one of these. Adapt it to your specific context and give your students a event to remember.

[Question] What kind of Christmas events have you done with your students?

What the Virgin Birth Shows Us

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to speak at The Grove Student Ministry for their “Christmas at The Grove” service. The Grove is the student ministry at Union Grove Baptist Church in Lexington, NC. Josh Evans is the student pastor and has a great blog where you can find great posts on student ministry and leadership. I wanted to summarize the message I gave and share it here on my blog.

After much prayer and study, I decided to speak to the students about what the Virgin birth shows us about God and His Son Jesus. I believe the Virgin birth shows us three important truths that can be seen in Luke 1:35 which says,

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy the Son of God.”

Gods Power. The first thing we see from the Virgin birth and this verse in particular is that God is powerful. The phrase “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” shows us that the Virgin birth was something planned and carried out by our sovereign and all-powerful God! A virgin giving birth to a child is impossible, but our God is the God of the impossible. We are reminded of this when the angel tells Mary this in verse 37: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Christ Sinlessness. We see the word holy in this verse which means  pure, good, without any defect or deficiency or blemish. It carries the idea of being totally set apart from sin. One of the reasons Christ had to be born of a virgin was because He had to be sinless. If He would have come through the normal means of birth He would have inherited the sinful nature we are all given because of Adam’s sin in Genesis. Christ would not have been able to be the sacrifice for our sins if He had a sin nature. He had to be sinless in order to die for our sins in our place. Being born through a Virgin and by God’s power, Christ came into the world sinless. He then lived a perfect, sinless life in order for His righteousness to be imputed to us (2 Corinthians 5:21). I wrote a blog called “What the Layaway Angels Teach us About Christ” that talks more about this truth, check it out!

Christ Humanity. Christ was fully God, but also fully man. We don’t understand this, but we know it is true because God’s Word teaches it. This is why the Virgin birth is so amazing! Christ, even though fully, came down to earth and walk among us a man. The verse above ends with the phrase Son of God. This title of Christ shows us His deity as well as His humanity. This was Christ very title of Himself and used it the most Himself. He wants people to understand He is fully God, but also embraced humanity. This should encourage us because He can understand and sympathize with us as we go through life. The beginning of Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses…” Christ, our high priest, can sympathize with us, how encouraging! The ends of this verse says, “…in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Even though Christ was sinless, He still faced temptation as we do. We see this clearly in Luke 4:1-12. The reason Christ came as a human was ultimately to die on the cross for our sin and giving us a way to have a relationship with God (Philippians 2:5-8; John 14:6).

I hope this Christmas didn’t pass you by without taking a time to think about the Virgin birth of our Savior. He came through God’s power for you! He was sinless so He could die for you and give you His righteousness! He embraced humanity so He could sympathize with you! Christ came into this world for you and for me. Have we let that truth seek in this Christmas?

I hope to have the video of this sermon on here soon. Until then feel free to check out some of my other sermons I have preached over the past year on the “Preaching and Teaching” page here on my blog.

What The Layaway Angels Teach us About Christ

If you have been watching the news for the past few days, you probably saw a story on what they are calling the “Layaway Angels.” It seems that all across the country people are going to their local Kmart and Wal-Mart to pay off peoples layaway accounts. People are shocked when they find out their account has been paid off. What I find interesting is how this story teaches so much about Christ, but many people miss that and say this story reminds them of how we should be “generous” during the Christmas season. I am all for being generous, but we need to realize the Christmas season is so much than just being generous.

The “Layaway Angels” remind us of the real reason for Christmas and it is not about be generous. We all are born into this world as sinners (Romans 3:32) and the price we must pay for being a sinner is death (Romans 6:23). The good news, the Gospel, is that Christ came into this world to pay that price for us by dying in our place (Romans 5:8). Not only did He die in our place, but He gave us His righteousness because being righteous, perfect, is the only way to be in relationship with a holy God. Christ, who knew no sin, became sin so that we could be given His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). The theological word for this is impute which basically means that Christ gave us His righteousness as if it were ours. So now we stand justified (“declared righteous”) before God.

Just like these “Layaway Angels” paid off the debt of others accounts, Christ paid the debt of our account, a price we could not pay. That is the reason we celebrate Christmas! We celebrate Christmas because Christ came into this world through a virgin so He could live a perfect life and go to the cross for us. Christmas is about the Gospel! If Christ were not born, there would be no cross and no salvation for us.

I think it is important to remind ourselves of what Christ did for us as much as possible. So when you hear about the “Layaway Angels” remind yourself of what Christ did for you. He came and paid off your account so you could have a personal relationship with God.

Here is one video you can find on the web about the “Layaway Angels.”