Things to Focus on this Summer

dan-chung-4106If you’re in student ministry the next few weeks brings a major shift for you and your ministry. The school year is coming to a close and your program is probably about to change a bit. In our ministry we take a break from weekly gatherings and just do a handful of events and activities where the priority is building relationships with our students and their friends. With this change of pace brings the opportunity to focus on a few things that may have been pushed to the side during the busy school year. Below are a few things students pastors should focus on this summer. They are broken into two categories: ministry and personal.

In regards to your ministry, focus on…
Getting out of your office and spend time with students. Let’s face it, spending time with students during the school year outside of your programs isn’t easy. Their in school most of the day and your busy writing talks and planning the next big event. Now that summer is here you and your students should be more free to hangout. Take advantage of it. One of things we are doing this summer is having a weekly time for girls to get together and a time for guys to get together. The girls are going to meet at a local park for a picnic and to go hiking while the guys will meet at the church to play basketball. Here is a deeper look into what our ministry looks like during the summer months. Spend less time in the office this summer (be sure you tell your pastor you’re not just sleeping in or taking the summer off) and more time hanging out with students.

Planning for next school year. By now you should have a rough idea of what your student ministry calendar looks like for next school year. The summer is when you want to nail that calendar down. Get dates and major details for your events locked in. In addition to events be sure to plan out your teaching schedule as well. Strive to put together a solid teaching schedule that will get you through the upcoming school year.

Recruiting new leaders. The summer gives you some extra time to find new leaders. You probably will loose some after the school year so every summer comes the challenge of finding a few new ones. Spend time recruiting new leaders and meeting with them. Find out what their skills and passions are. Strive to get them plugged in and ready to go for the upcoming school year. I recently wrote a post about some things to remember when you recruit new volunteers.

In regards to yourself personally, focus on…
Reading. Hopefully you find time to read even during the busy school year. However, the summer months should open up some extra time for reading. As a side note, I put this under the “personal” section but don’t forget reading should be a part of your job as a pastor too. Either way, find some time this summer to read. Read ministry books. Read theology books. Read fiction books. Read biographies. Read books by people you agree with. Read books by people you disagree with. Read for your growth as a follower of Christ. Read for your growth as a leader. Just read as much as you can.

Getting a good vacation. Don’t let the summer go by without getting in a solid vacation. If you have a family, plan a family vacation that allows you and your family time to kick back and relax. You need this more than you probably realize. Wayne Cordeiro says, “Those who’s vocation is all about giving out are wearing out.” As student pastors we “give out” a lot. Throughout the school year we are constantly giving. That’s why we need to take a break and rest. Summer is a great time for this. Be sure to take a summer vacation and get some much needed rest. By the way, take some books on your vacation. Vacation is a great time for reading.

I’d like to end this post with making a statement some may agree with while others may not – your summer months should look different than the months during the school year. That doesn’t mean your job as a student pastors gets easier and you all of a sudden get extra hours you somehow lost during the school year. However, it does mean you don’t have to have a weekly program. You don’t have to be writing talks. You don’t have to be planning event after event. Take a break from the programs and talks. Spend time with students and build relationships. Plan for the upcoming year. Most of all, focus on growing as a person and a leader while getting some extra time to refresh yourself before the busyness hits again in late August.

 

Books I’ve Read Recently

The Christ-Centered Expositor514vgksbzl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ by Tony Merida. This is by far one of the best preaching books I have ever read. From the title of the book it’s pretty easy to catch what Merida is passionate – expository preaching that is Christ-centered. The goal of this helpful books is to help preachers (even though others could benefit from this book but his main audience is preachers) understand how they can better preach Christ-centered expository sermons. It serves as a handbook to do just that. What I love about this book is how Merida spends the first half talking about the preachers heart. These are challenging chapters that will cause preachers to evaluate their life, doctrine, prayer life, and more. These early chapters help the preacher see that who is plays into what he preaches. The second half of the book is extremely practical. These chapters lay out a five step process to writing Christ-centered expository sermons. I’d recommend this book to those who have been preaching for a long time as well as those who may be in seminary preparing for pastoral ministry. It’s also helpful for those in between who are early in their ministry career.

Growing Younggy_green_cover_coming_soonv3 by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. This is the newest book put out by the Fuller Youth InstituteThe Churches Engaging Young People project studied churches who were effectively engaging 15-29 year olds (click here to read more about their research). From their research they found out there are six essential strategies that churches use to engage teenagers and young adults. This book helps churches understand how they too can practice these essential strategies in their context. I really enjoyed the depth of this book and the extent of the research. In addition, the book also gives many practical steps for churches to follow if they want to effectively reach teenagers and young adults. I also really liked how they included many stories of churches doing this well. I came away with some great ideas but also with some fresh inspiration for reaching teenagers and young adults in the context of the local church. I would recommend this book to anyone who serves in a local church, especially those who work with teenagers and young adults.

67084Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In this book Alcorn helps the reader understand money in light of God’s Word. There is almost too much in this book to even be able to write a short review. It’s packed with challenging chapters on tithing, giving, debt, savings, materialism, church finances, and money in light of eternity. Alcorn is both extremely Biblical and practical. He doesn’t hold back in sharing with the reader what God says about money and goes to great lengths to provide practical things for the reader to do in regards to their money. I’d recommend this book to every believer who wants to better understand God’s view of money and how they should handle it.

Up next on my reading list is On Preaching by H.B. Charles and Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.

Books I’ve Read Recently

The Imperfect Pastor41uu0g9bztl-_uy250_ by Zack Eswine. This book is by far one of the most honest pastoral ministry books I have ever read (Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp would be another one of those). In this book Eswine helps pastors see that despite what the “celebrating pastor” culture is telling them, pastoral ministry is more about walking with Jesus and serving Him in the local context He has placed you in. Throughout this book Eswine uses the example of Jesus to show what pastoral work looks like. From this approach it’s easy to see that our current model of pastoral work doesn’t always match up with what Jesus had in mind. This book was refreshing for someone like me who during college and seminary was influenced heavily by what we may call “celebrating pastors.” Reading and listening to guys like Mark Driscoll and Steven Furtick often times left the impression that if I didn’t serve at a big church or had as much influence as them I was a failure in ministry. At times it feels like I came out of college and seminary more prepared to climb the “ministry ladder” rather than serve Jesus daily in pastoral work in whatever context He put me in. This book helped me leave some of that baggage behind and focus on what really matters, which is following Jesus daily and serving Him daily in the church context He has placed me. I would highly recommend this book to pastors, especially younger guys in pastoral ministry.

703729_f450Vertical Church by James McDonald. This is a book that had been on my list to read for quite some time. I decided to grab it and give it a read after hearing both good and bad things about it. In this book McDonald argues that churches should be “vertical.” By that he means that churches, particularly in their weekly worship services, should be about the glory of God and helping people experience that glory. The bottom line seems to be that churches should be more about God’s glory and not cultural relevance or anything else that drives churches and directs what they do. The first half of the book deals more with a Biblical basis for the “vertical church” model and the second half is more practical in that it explains how a church can be “vertical.” In the second half of the book, McDonald goes through several pillars of a vertical church – unashamed adoration, unapologetic preaching, unafraid witness, and increasing prayer. Overall I enjoyed this book. However, there were a few things that didn’t sit well with me. First, McDonald seems to have a “my way or the highway” approach. This makes sense when you realize McDonald argues that the “vertical church” model is Biblical. He has a deep and strong conviction of that, which leads to his dogmatic tone. But at times it came across a bit much. Second, his chapter on worship (unashamed adoration) seemed to make the case that expression in worship is the end goal and when one lacks expression in worship they lack true worship. I like his heart behind this chapter – that true worship seems to show itself in expression (we see that in the Bible, especially in Psalms). But true worship (which we need to be careful not to just consider singing in church as worship, worship extends beyond just singing), doesn’t always show itself in outward expression. Tim Challies shares more about the weakness and danger in this chapter as well as some other chapters in this book in his review.

9781433549731_p0_v1_s192x300When Trouble Comes by Phil Ryken. I read this book in preparation for a series I did with our students called “Walking With God Through Pain and Suffering.” This book not only gave me some nuggets for that series but also helped me understand how to respond when troubles comes into my own life. This book works off the premise that trouble is a part of our lives in this fallen world. Life is tough and trouble comes our way more than we would like. In this book, Ryken uses various Biblical characters and their troubles to show us how we can walk with God when those kinds of troubles come at us. Each chapter is very practical and easily to apply to your life, especially if you’re going through the same type of trouble that Biblical character is going through. This is an easy read that I would recommend to everyone.

Two others books I recently read that I chose not to review were Culture Making by Andy Crouch and Excellent Preaching by Criag Bartholomew.

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Love them or hate them, games are a part of student ministry. It’s easy to spend way too much time searching for good games to play with your students. In order to help other youth workers save some time in this area I want to share the games we played last month in our student ministry. Below are all the games we played during our weekly program during the month of October. Sometimes we play the same game multiple times a year so any games we played last month that we already played during a previous month I will not include in this post (click here to see the games we played in September). Below are the games we played in October. Be sure to click the title of the game to download the graphic or purchase the game content.

Headbangers Bop
How It Works: Bring a few contestants up front and give them each a headband that has a pedometer attached to it. Explain to them that when the music (which works best if it’s some heavy metal music) starts they will have one minute to “headbang” as fast as they can to see how many steps they can get on the pedometer. The one with the highest number of steps wins. We played a few head to head rounds with the winner of each round advancing to the final round.
Supplies: Headbands, pedometers, and heavy metal playlist.

Jump The River
How It Works: This is a super simple game I many of use played in some form or another on the playground as kids. Tape a line down on the floor and then make another line with something that can be moved. The two lines should form a small gap. The point of the game is to jump from the first line and make it past the other one. If you don’t make it or hit the lines with your feet you’re out. If you clear the gap you’re in and advance to the next round. Each round the second line should be moved further and further until there is only one student one clears it.
Supplies: Tape and something to make another line that can be moved easily (we used a rope and had two leaders hold it on the ground with their feet).

Epic Battles
How It Works: This is a simple but fun game from Download Youth Ministry. The game includes short video clips of two things going head to head in a boxing ring. Students have a few seconds to pick who they think will win and then the videos has the two fighting until one comes out as the winner. When you download the game from DYM you get all the video files and things you need to play this game. brought two students up front for each round and had them pick (with the crowds help of course) who they thought would win. We gave the winner of each round a free item from the snack bar.
Supplies: Epic Battles game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Speedball
How It Works: Have everyone start on one side of the room. When you say “go” have someone throw out a bucket of tennis balls. Throw out a few less balls then you have students playing. The goal of the game if for everyone to run and grab a ball. If you don’t get a ball you’re out but if you get one you advance to the next round. Continue doing this until there are two students left but only one ball. If you have a large crowd you can simply speed the game up by making sure their are 5-10 less balls than students playing each round. How many balls you take out will determine how fast or slow this game goes.
Supplies: Tennis balls

Trump or Animal
How It Works:
With Donald Trump being so popular right now this game was a hit. It’s another simple but fun game from DYM. The point of the game is to guess if a zoomed up picture of hair is Donal Trump’s hair or hair of an animal. You’ll be surprised at how hard it really is. When you download the game you will get all the slides you need to play this game. I brought two students up front and had them play head to head.
Supplies: Trump or Animal game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Mountain Dew Plunge
How It Works: We played this game for our Halloween themed night. It’s basically bobbing applies but instead of in water you have them do it in Mountain Dew. What student (especially middle school student) doesn’t want to stick their face into a pool of Mountain Dew? We did this up front with a few students so everyone else could watch. Also, we had them do it in a clear bin so people could see what was happening through the bin.
Supplies: Clear bin (we got one from the storage bin section at Wal-Mart), Mountain Dew, apples.

The Purge Meets the Walking Dead
How it Works: Last year for our Halloween night we played a game called The Purge. It was a hit so we decided to bring it back this year but with a twist. Everyone starts by getting a ballon (have these already blown up before you hand them out). Have everyone spread out in the room with their balloon. When you say “go” the goal of the game is to be the last one standing with your balloon in hand and not popped. If your balloon gets popped you’re out. The only rules are everyone must stay in the room and you cannot physical hurt someone. Students will try to not only protect their balloon but will want to pop other peoples balloons. We also there out a box of “supplies” (rope, duct tape, small balls, straws) that students could use to aid in their popping of balloons. All of this is the Purge part of the game. We added the Walking Dead element by releasing all the students who were out (dead=zombies) back into the game to try and pop the balloons of the students still in the game with their balloons. We waited until there were about 10-15 students left before we released those who were out. We had the lights down very low and had music playing from The Purge movie soundtrack.
Supplies: Balloons (we bought red balloons and had enough for everyone to play two rounds), box of radon supplies (be sure there is nothing sharp students could hurt each other with).

Bare Knuckles Fistacuffs
How it Works: Our intern ran this game and I actually wasn’t there so here is how it is explained by Youth Group Collective: “Have everyone find a partner. Each person stands with both feet together, facing each other, arms length apart. The object of the game is to get the other person to lose balance. This can only be achieved by pushing your opponent’s hands. Hands do not have to maintain contact. Often times a player will act as if he is about to push another player’s hands and then immediately pull away so as to cause his opponent to lose balance.After every pair has decided a winner and a loser, have those who lost sit and the winners stand. Then have each winner find a new partner. Rinse and Repeat.”
Supplies: None!

Book Review: Youth Ministry in the 21st Century

51D-3YevG9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_What is the correct view of youth ministry that youth pastors, youth workers, and churches should have when they do ministry to teenagers? Youth Ministry in the 21st Century attempts to answer that question by bring together five influential leaders in the youth ministry world and having them each share their conviction as to what is the best “view” of youth ministry. Each author passionately shares his view of what youth ministry should look like and then the other authors get the chance to respond to that view. The views and responses are both detailed and honest, but handled with respect and appreciation for the other views. Chap Clark, who serves as the editor, compares Youth Ministry in the 21st Century to an earlier book he was part of called Four Views of Youth Ministry and the Church. Clark expresses his gratitude for that work but rightly argues that as youth ministry has moved forward and new issues among teenagers in our world has surfaced it is time for a new conversation to emerge about what youth ministry should look like. Youth Ministry in the 21st Century serves as that new conversation and it’s a good one!

Greg Stier offers the first view, which is “The Gospel Advancing View of Youth Ministry.” Stier holds to the conviction that youth ministry is about developing students who will be “world changers” for Christ. Taken from Jesus ministry (the Gospels) and the book of Acts, Stier paints the picture that youth ministry is introducing students to Jesus and then training them to go out and share the message of the Gospel. Stier says, “If we really want teenagers to be like Jesus, then we must cultivate in them a driving passion to reach the lost” (page 5). Stier also says, “The goal here is not more evangelistic programs but nurturing teenagers to live and give the Gospel in word and deed in their spheres of influence” (page 5). One may wonder where Stier puts helping students grow in their faith when it comes to this view of youth ministry. He doesn’t ignore that facet of youth ministry, but believes that the most spiritual growth in teenagers lives happen when they share their faith and focus on the mission to reach the lost.

The second view, offered by Brian Cosby, is “The Reformed View of Youth Ministry.” Cosby picks an interesting title for his view that  leads the reader to think more about reformed theology than a view of youth ministry. Cosby, who holds to the reformed tradition, doesn’t necessarily give a view that’s tied to that tradition but there is no doubt that tradition influences his view. In the reformed view of youth ministry, the focus starts with God not the teenagers. Cosby argues most youth ministries emphasizes “Home Depot Theology” – “You can do it, God can help.” He debunks that false view by arguing the emphasis of youth ministry must be God working in and through the teenagers hearts to change them. Cosby argues that youth ministry needs to move away from entertainment and focus on a methodology of practicing historic “means of grace” – ministry of the Word, prayer, sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s supper), service, and Gospel community. Cosby argues these are the practices that should shape youth ministry.

Chap Clark offers the third view, which is “The Adoption View of Youth Ministry.” In this view, youth ministry is seen as part of the larger church body. It’s not a separate church of younger people but a ministry of the church to help nurture the faith of teenagers. However, those teenagers should and must be “adopted” into the larger body of Christ through relationships, service, mentoring, and worship. Clark argues that the way to help teenagers posses a life-long faith (one that doesn’t fade away when they graduate the youth group and go to college) is by connecting them to the church. Clark says, “I contend that the primary reason we have lost so many of the hearts and investment of our young when they leave the confines of the high school routine is that we have failed to provide them with the most vital resource they possessed in Christ: the God-given faith community” (page 75). The adoption view of youth ministry strives to make sure teenagers are a part of the larger church community so that even when they graduate the youth program they have a place to belong, grow, and serve.

The fourth view, offered by Fernando Arzola, is quite out of place in my opinion. The view Arzola offers is “The Ecclesial View of Youth Ministry.” This view argues that “Protestant youth ministry has all but deleted ecclesiology from its theological radar” (page 113). This views argues that teenagers should be taught church history and should experience their faith with the backdrop of what has taken place in the church in the past. To be honest (and this seems to be a point made in the responses) I don’t understand what this view looks like practically when it comes to being a view of youth ministry. I appreciate the argument and believe teenagers should be taught how God has worked in the history of the church but to call this an entire “view” of youth ministry is a bit too much.

The fifth view shared in this book is from Ron Hunter and is called “The D6 View of Youth Ministry.” Hunter, who founded D6 and is helping bring a very Biblical family ministry approach to the church, argues that youth ministry should be a partnership between the family and the church to nurture students in their faith. The D6 view is built upon God’s commands in Deuteronomy 6 (and Ephesians 6) for the parents to be the primary leaders of their  kid spiritual development. The youth pastor and the church should train, equip, and resource the parents but should never take the place of them. This view, much like the emphasis of ministries like Orange, believes ministry to teenagers is done best when the parents and church partner together.

After reading this book I did not come away with the conviction that one of these five views is right and all the other ones were wrong. Instead I came away with a much greater understanding of the scope of youth ministry and an appreciation for the different views of how to do youth ministry. As I reflect on the views I come to a place of realization that all of these five views offer a piece of the greater youth ministry puzzle. One view doesn’t cover all the complexities of ministering to teenagers in our world but they do all offer a significant piece to the overall puzzle. For example, in my opinion and in light of this book, youth ministry must have a great commission focus (reaching students with the Gospel and sending them out to reach others) [Gospel Advancing View] and should be built upon Biblical practices such as preaching/teaching, prayer, service, and Gospel community [Reformed View] while making teenagers a vital part of the church community (Adoption View). This should all be done in partnership with families as we help them fulfill their God-give role to disciple their kids [D6 View].

This is a youth ministry book I would put in the hands of anyone who is currently in or preparing to be in full-time youth ministry. It will sharpen and guide those of us who want to be faithful to God and His Word as we strive to build a strategy for youth ministry in our context.