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.

Book Review: Dangerous Calling

Dangerous-Calling-194x300This week I finished the book Dangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp. This book by far has been the most honest, practical, and Gospel-centered pastoral books I have ever read. It does what most pastoral books do not, it’s not a handbook of how to do pastoral ministry in the local church, but an honest look at the heart and man behind the ministry. In Tripp’s words, “This book is written to confront the issue of the often unhealthy shape of pastoral culture and to put on the table the temptations that are either unique to or intensified by pastoral ministry. This is a book of warning that calls you to humble self-reflection and change” (page 11-12).

Tripp breaks down the book into three parts. In part one he examines the pastoral cultural. I appreciate Tripp’s honesty and authenticity in this part of the book (even though he is very honest throughout the entire book). He shares much about his own struggle with personal sin while maintaining the public persona of a healthy pastor. In this section, Tripp exposes many of the struggles and temptations pastors will face. He doesn’t hold any punches, but goes straight to the heart and exposes the sins of pastoral ministry. In part two Tripp talks about the danger of loosing your awe, forgetting who God is. He shares about the danger of being comfortable, keeping secrets, and apathy. In part three he  explains the danger of arrival, forgetting who God is. This is where Tripp exposes the danger and harm in thinking we have arrived or that the ministry is about us, not God.

I don’t want to share much more detail about the contents of this book because I want to encourage anyone in pastoral ministry to pick up a copy and read it for themselves. I have read many pastoral books through college and seminary, but none of them has been has beneficial and helpful as Dangerous Calling. Tripp knows that learning how to do ministry is not the first goal, the goal is to learn how to be the pastor God desires and created you to be. Once you figure that out ministry will happen.

If you read only one book this year pastor, make it this one! You will not regret it and it will change your heart as well as the ministry you oversee. Click here to view a short video of Tripp explaining more about this book.

Freebie: Communion Sermon for Students

communionLast week we finished up a series in our high school ministry called Tangled: The Body of Christ-A Beautiful Mess. In this series we talked about what it means to be a community of believers. That we all have different gifts and abilities, but we make up one body. We also talked about how we become part of this community and that is through faith in Christ alone. To end of series last week we talked about communion. Not only that, but we actually took communion as a body of believers together after the message. I want to share the sermon with you as a freebie. I hope you can use it as a resource the next time you teach your students about communion.

Communion is something we do as believers to remember what Christ did for us on the cross. In this sermon, I answered three questions: what is communion?, why do we do communion?, and how do we take communion?

Below you will find a link to download this sermon for free. It’s in manuscript form and feel free to tweak it to make it more of your own. I have provided it as a Word document so you can edit it and use it how you wish. If you do use it, let me know how it goes!

Click here to download the communion sermon for free!

Youth Pastor Burnout

I want to share with you a infograph my friend Aaron Helman put together about burnout among youth pastors. Burnout is a real problem among youth pastors and it’s something we must intentionally fight before it happens. Many times we wait until after we are burnout to do something about it, but the best time to fight burnout is before it happens. Check out the infograph below and let the facts open your eyes to the real world of youth pastor burnout. You will probably find a few things below that identify yourself. After you look at the facts below, I’d encourage you to read this post I wrote awhile ago about how pastors can avoid burnout.

YP Burnout Infograph

How Pastors Can Avoid Burnout

Burnout is far too popular among pastors (If you don’t believe me, check out these statistics). I believe pastors face burnout because they don’t take the necessary steps to prevent it before it happens. Many times pastor’s hit their burnout stage and then look for help, but sometimes it’s too late. The key to avoiding burnout in ministry is taking steps to avoid it before it even becomes an issues. So what are some steps you can take to avoid burnout as a pastor?

Guard your time with God. Never let a day go by without spending some time with your Savior. Ministry is busy and will steal time away from God if you let it, so guard that time with all you’ve got. Find a time during your daily routine where you can get alone, unplug, and spend time with God in His Word and in prayer (here is a great online devotional tool I use daily).

Love the person of Christ more than the work of Christ. This one is tied closely to guarding your time with God. Unfortunately many pastors are more in love with ministry than they are with Jesus. I believe this happens to a pastor when he neglects his own personal time with God. If you are spending time with God, taking in His Word, and communicating with Him in prayer you will grow in your love for Jesus which will fuel you to do His work. When we don’t do it in that order, we end up doing His work by our own efforts and strength because we haven’t spend time falling more in love with Him. Don’t allow ministry to become your thing of worship, worship Jesus!

Take care of yourself physically. I’m preaching to myself when it comes to this one. Ministry will take all you have physically. Being a pastor can be one of the most physically exhausting things ever. Because of it’s demand on your body and energy, if pastor’s  don’t take care of themselves physically they can burnout fast. Take some time out of your busy schedule to exercise. The most helpful thing many pastors could do to fight against burnout is have a regular exercise routine. And remember, eating healthy is a must too. Our bodies are the instrument God uses to do ministry through us, so let’s make sure we take proper care of it.

Keep your marriage first. One of the reasons many pastor’s face burnout is because their marriages are suffering under the weight of their ministry. I don’t think it can be said enough, but your marriage come BEFORE your ministry. God has created you to be the pastor of your home before a pastor at your church. When your ministry comes before your marriage you are on the brink of burnout. When your marriage comes first and you’re striving to be a pastor at home first, your ministry will be in better shape and not running on empty, headed towards burnout.

These are just a few simple ways I believe pastor’s can avoid burnout before it happens. I would recommend that every pastor should read Wayne Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty (I recently wrote a review of it here).

[Question] How do you prevent burnout before it happens?