Books I’ve Recently Read

51c69HfZihL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs. My campus pastor had me read this book to better understand his philosophy and style of ministry. Because I have been on staff under my campus pastor for a little over two years now I had a decent idea of where this book was going. However, it was great to read a book like this that I know had shaped my campus pastor’s view of how he does ministry. I was glad he had me read it because it was a book that challenged some of my views on how to speak to and reach the unbelievers in the world around me. As the title suggest, Tim Downs goal in this book “is about the crucial job of finding common ground between the Christian and the secular worlds, two vast continents that are rapidly drifting apart” (page 12). As Christians, we are not called to remove ourselves from the culture and to create a “sub-culture” of Christianity but instead we are called to engage and be salt and light in our culture. In this book Down helps the reader understand the importance of sowing the Gospel. That means taking the times and means necessary to connect with unbelievers, understand them, and helping create an atmosphere that when the time is right the soil of their hearts will be ready for the Gospel. Throughout this book Down gives the reader tons of principles, ideas, and practical information to help Christians connect with unbelievers in their culture. Two chapters in this book really challenged me. First, was chapter 4 called “The Sower’s Art.” In this chapter Down talks about how the communication contains both science and art. Science being what is said, the raw content, and art being how the content is being shared and presented, the style of of the communication. Christians are guilty of putting a lot of emphasis on the science of connecting with unbelievers and sharing the Gospel. We focus on getting all the facts right and make during our theology and doctrine is perfectly lined up. These are not bad things. In fact, we need to be practicing good science in our communication to unbelievers. However, Down says, “Christians don’t tend to see the value of art. In this area, we are thirty years behind the rest of our culture” (page 54). In this chapter Down helps Christians understand how we can take the Gospel and Biblical beliefs and package them in a way that is understandable and effective for the unbeliever. Down says, “We must begin to encourage all Christians that spiritual growth requires developing goths science and art. Every Christian must grow in his knowledge of Scripture and theology, but equally in his ability to communicate it persuasively and attractively, whether through rioting or teaching or interpersonal communication” (page 59). The other chapter that really challenged me was chapter 11 called “Planting Part 2 – Materials.” In this chapter Downs challenged Christians to really evaluate the type of materials we give unbelievers that informs them about our faith. We should use resources that are relevant, speak the cultures language, raise good questions, and other things. I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to effectively connect and reach unbelievers in the culture around them.

new-detox-coverSexual Detox by Tim Challies. I have read many books on the topic of sexual sin. Some have been great while others have not been so great. This book was one of the best books on the topic of sexual sin that I have ever read. In this book Challies writes to men who are sick of porn and the negative effects of sexual sin. Challies tackles issues such as the reality of pornography and sexual sin, masturbation, the gift of sex, and how men can go through a “sexual detox” in their soul as well as in the bedroom with their wife (or future wife). Challies deals with the reality of issues surrounding sexual sin but offers Gospel-centered principles on how men can be victorious over these sins. This is an incredible book that every man should take the time to read. It will convict and get to the heart of porn, lust, and sexual sin while offering practical advice on how to honor God and your wife in this area.

Two books I have recently read that I chose not to review here are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and The True Measure of a Man by Richard Simmons. I am currently reading Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear and plan to read Prayer by Tim Keller next.

How Student Pastor Can Partner With Parents

parent_teen_relationshipPartnering with parents should be one of the jobs of a student pastor. When I look at my personal philosophy of student ministry I see three major objectives that I feel I have been called to do: Biblical teaching, training leaders, and equipping parents. Student pastors need to remember that God has called us to not just minister to students, but to their parents as well. Their parents are the ones who are responsible for their child’s spiritual growth and we need to equip and partner with them in pointing their student to Jesus. But practically speaking, how does a student pastor partner with parents? It sounds good and all, but how do we do that? Here are a few practical ways student pastors can partner with parents:

Communication. I’ve heard it said that the main thing parents expect and want from their students student pastor is communication. Parents don’t like to be left in the dark. They want to know what your teaching, when the next event is, or how much something is going to cost. I strive to over communicate to our parents. Most of them probably get tired of my emails, but I want them to be overly informed in what is going on in our ministry. During the school year I send out a weekly parent email that covers what we are teaching that week, what events are coming up, and a parent resource (more on that later). However you decide to do it, communicate clearly and effectively to your parents.

Build Relationships. Don’t just send emails to your parents, get to know them! Take them out to lunch or dinner from time to time. Don’t wait until their student screws up and you need to talk about it, take them out just for the enjoyment of getting to know them better. One of my favorite things to do in student ministry is hanging out with my students parents. My students probably think this is weird because to them parents are old and boring, but I love it!

Resource Them. Be intentional about finding resources for your parents. Point them to websites such as CPYU, Homeward, and Plugged In. Share with them books about parenting that you have ran across online or at conferences. Hold parent seminars that share with parents vital information about things in youth culture. Most parents don’t know where to find good resources on parenting so help them out.

Serve There Student Well. As I said above, parents are the ones responsible for their child’s spiritual growth. As student pastors we get to partner with them in the journey of pointing their student to Jesus. Don’t take this task lightly, work hard and strive to serve their student well. Teach their student God’s Word, help them apply it to their lives, give them opportunities to serve, and train them to be missionaries in their culture. Partner with parents by being the best student pastor you can be!

These are just a few practical ways student pastors can partner with parents. On a side note, if you are a young student pastor don’t let partnering with parents scare you. They may think your too young to be a “real pastor,” but show parents your serious about this and this is God’s calling on your life. I’ve shared a few thoughts in a past post about how young student pastors can partner with parents (click here to view that post).

Guest Post: Three Keys to Better Communication with Students

iStock_000005586427XSmall-Mom-Megaphone-TeenOne of the great joys of being a youth pastor is teaching the Bible. I think for most of us, it was the joy we get from teaching the Bible that brought to youth ministry in the first place.  And, if we are honest with ourselves, every one of us thinks that we can improve on the way we communicate with our students.  My “day job” is as a teacher, so I am communicating with people every day, all day. Here are a few of the tips I’ve learned over the past ten years as a communicator, both in a school and in a church.

If possible, use visuals in your talk.  Students will remember what you are teaching on better if they have a visual picture to “hook” that lesson on.  Your visuals don’t need to be huge or elaborate.  They can be as simple as a PowerPoint presentation with the Scripture verses on it.  In all likelihood, you have students who are visual learners and something other than you will grab and hold their interest.

Use humor, but only if it is real.  Everyone loves a humorous communicator.  That is why Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld are so popular and beloved (no matter how crass they may be at times).  Humor breaks down walls and puts the listener at ease.  However, you cannot force it.  There is nothing worse than a person trying to be funny when he isn’t.  You can’t force a joke.  The best thing to do is practice your talk and make sure you are prepared.  The more comfortable you are, the easier it will be to insert humor as appropriate.

Be true to who you are.  One of the best, and most infuriating, things about students is their ability to smell a fake.  If you stand up to teach or preach and you are insincere or try to be something you are not, they will know immediately.  It would be like me trying to pull off wearing skinny jeans.  You need to discover who you are as a communicator and stay true to that.  There is a very humorous clip on YouTube of Matt Chandler impersonating Mark Driscoll and demonstrating what happens when someone else tries to be Mark Driscoll.  It always goes wrong.  Spend time praying and ask God to show you who you are as a teacher and communicator.  Know who you are and stay true to that.

While there are many other things you can focus on as a communicator, these three are a good place to start.  I realize only one of them is tangible, but becoming a good communicator is not an overnight activity.  Trust the One who called you and you will do well as a teacher of the Word.

This guest post was written by Jonathan Pearson. Jonathan is a husband, father, and youth pastor.  He is a graduate of Pensacola Christian College and Liberty University. Jonathan and his family live in Charles Town, WV. He is currently a third grade teacher while he searches for a new church in which to serve. Check his blog out and follow him on Twitter.

Parent Newsletter’s in Your Student Ministry

In one of youth ministry classes in college, we had to create a parent newsletter that could be used in our future ministry. At the time, I remember thinking sending out a parent newsletter is probably something I will not do, but now that I in ministry and have my own parents to think about, I have changed my mind. One of the things I did as soon as I got into this position was get all the parent’s contact info (e-mail, phone numbers, address) and communicate with them that they will receive a monthly electronic newsletter that will provide details on that months activities, resources to help them be parents, and a quick not from myself. So today I sent out our first parent e-mail newsletter for the month of April! I’ll be honest, it can become a burden and just another thing on your list to do, but I believe they are helpful and worth your time. Here are a few thoughts on creating a parent newsletter for your student ministry:

1. Decide how often the newsletter will go out. In my ministry, we are only sending a parent newsletter out once a month. In that newsletter, I try to cover all the details of that month so I don’t have to send out multiple e-mails throughout the month. One of my student pastor friends sends their newsletter out once a week. Everyone does it differently, but the point is to get it out and have a cycle it stays on. I would suggest sending one out at least once a month.

2. Find a good program. There are tons of programs out there you can use to make this task a little easier on yourself. The most popular right now is probably Mailchimp. I know of a lot of student pastors who are currently using it for their newsletters. Personally, I am using the iWorks program Pages on my Mac to design our newsletters. Once I design one, I export it as a PDF and send it out as an attachment in an e-mail to the parents. This isn’t the best and always fastest way to do it, but for me it works for now.

3. Do more than just give details. The main thing you want to do in your newsletter is give parents all the details they need, but don’t stop there! Throw in other creative things like movie reviews, music reviews, parenting resources, student interviews, and  other things that allow you to equip your parents. Parents will get tired of just looking at details, give them something to look forward to each time the newsletter is sent to them.

4. Don’t worry about getting the newsletter out to students. Most students don’t use e-mail so don’t worry about trying to get them to review the newsletter. I would suggest make it a “Parent Newsletter” that is designed just for parents. Use social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and texting to communicate details to your students. If you do have a Facebook or Twitter account for your student ministry, send out your newlsetter through that as well incase people miss it through their e-mails.

These are just a few thoughts on creating a parents newsletter for your student ministry. It is worth the time to put together a newsletter for your parents. It will become one of the best ways to communicate all the crazy details of student ministry to them.