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.

The Indispensable Youth Pastor (Part 1)

As many of you know, I am still searching for my first full-time student pastor position. Awhile back I saw the book The Indispensable Youth Pastor and noticed the first part of the book was dedicated to helping you land a youth ministry job. Honestly, this was the first book I saw on this subject so I instantly wanted to grab a copy. My fiancée surprised me and gave it to me as a gift a few weeks ago and I just finished reading the first part. The last book I reviewed here on my blog was Alvin’s Reid book Raising the Bar so I figured it was time to post another book review. Since I only read the first part of the book about landing a youth ministry job, I am only going to review that part in this post. On down the road I hope to read the rest of the book and post a review on it.

In The Indispensable Youth Pastor, authors Mark DeVries and Jeff Dunn-Rankin attempt to do three things for the reader: land, love, and lock in your youth ministry dream job. The book is broken down into three parts based on that attempt and I believe the first part, landing a youth ministry job, provides some of the best advice I have ever heard when it comes to searching for a youth ministry job. The chapters are extremely short, only about two pages each, so it makes this book easy to read and apply the advice given.

The first chapter cuts right to the heart of the matter, before you can worry about landing that youth ministry job, you need to be the right person. If your going to be effective in that dream youth ministry job you better have a growing, vibrant faith that you can pour into students. Here are two great quotes from this chapter: “The only way to share a vibrant faith is to have a vibrant faith” and “We can’t share what we don’t have.” From there the book talks about engaging in youth ministry wherever you are now, and realizing youth ministry is more than hanging out with students. Then you come to a few chapters that deal with the way you go about your search. The authors suggest you make two helpful documents: a contact tracking chart and a personal search timeline. These two documents will allow you to gather a group of contacts as well as track your search so you know where you are at. Personally, I have not made these two documents, but have taken the principles from the idea and it is helping a lot! Then the book spends the next few chapters on your resume. It deals with having the right type of resume, knowing what your references will say, and how to handle interviews once your resume lands you a face to face interview. Then you get to the last two chapters in this part of the book: family matters and holy hesitation. These were probably the most helpful and encouraging chapters for me.

When it comes to searching for a youth ministry job, you must always keep your family first and keep them in the loop with the search process. The authors encourage you to think about things like: how often will your family see you if you take this position, will you have to move for this position, and does it pay the bills. They always encourage you to never stop talking with your family and allow them to be a part of the search process. Then the authors end this part of the book of right, reminding you it’s all about God’s leading and direction. Sometimes we experience a “holy hesitation” when God puts something in front of us. The authors remind you that sometimes that holy hesitation comes right before you step into that dream youth ministry job!

By far, this book provided the best advice I have yet to receive when it comes to my student pastor job search. If you are currently in a search, I would highly recommend you grab a copy of this book (Click here to get it on Amazon) and spend some time soaking in all the advice and helpful tips it provides. The rest of the book covers how to love and lock in that youth ministry job you have so if your currently a student pastor, I would recommend this book to you as well.

Click here for a great review of the whole book by Drew Peterson. Also, if you’re a pastor or person on a search committee that is on the other end of this topic, check out the authors other book Before You Hire a Youth Pastor.

Raising the Bar

I recently wrote a book review of John Piper’s new book Bloodlines and in that review I said it was a book that changed the way I view how the Gospel relates to all areas of life, especially racism. After reading Bloodlines I decided to read Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid. This book also changed my thinking, but about student ministry. I got this book awhile back, but have not been able to read it. There hasn’t been many student ministry books that have impacted me like this book did! After reading this book, my excitement and passion for student ministry as grown and I feel more prepared to disciple and reach students with the Gospel.

It is no surprise that modern student ministry has failed to produce life-long disciples of Christ. Sadly, most students leave the church and their faith after they graduate high school and leave our youth groups. In Raising the Bar, Reid pleads with student pastors and parents to raise the bar for our students. Kristin, age 17, says, “We know how to be teenagers. We want the church to show us how to be adults.” This quote is mentioned numerous times throughout the book and it sums up the basis on this book. It is time for students pastors to raise the bar and start training students to be adults who own their faith and become life-long followers of Christ.

Reid breaks this book down into two parts: Test Time: Does Youth Ministry Pass? and Reinventing Youth Ministry. In part one, Reid begins by explaining who modern student ministry is reaching: the millennials. Then he spends a few chapters talking about how we should expect more from students and from history, especially Biblical history, we know that students are capable of doing great things for God! In a recent blog post I shared about how God usually chooses younger people to be leaders and do great things for Him (Click here to see that post). Reid then ends part one with a discussion on the Jesus movement that swept our nation in the 70’s. This was my favorite part of the first part of this book. I never really learned about the Jesus movement and Reid helped me understand how most modern ministry finds its roots in the movement. Throughout part one, Reid doesn’t bash student ministry all together, but he does point out how it has failed. That is why it is time to raise the bar in student ministry.

In part two, Reid talks about how we should raise the bar and what do we raise it to. Reid gives four main areas were we must raise the bar in student ministry: prayer, Bible knowledge, evangelism, and worship. Instead of going through each of these and sharing Reid’s thoughts, I want to point out the two that was most helpful to me. First, evangelism is one area I personally struggle with. Because of that, I need to be intentional and push myself to grow in this area so my students can learn from me. Reid talks about how evangelism is exciting for students! Students want to share their faith, but they need instruction and an example from the adults above them. Second, I was extremely encouraged by the Bible knowledge part. For far too long, student ministry has been about “behavior modification” rather than teaching theology from God’s Word that changes belief. Right belief based on God’s Word, will bring about right behavior. Reid talks about how student pastors need to be well-trained in Biblical history, language, and theology so we can train students to be life-long followers of Christ! Student pastors should be trained just as well as a senior pastor!

I encourage anyone involved in student ministry to read as much student ministry related books possible. But if there is a book you MUST read it is this one! This book will help you understand why student ministry needs to raise the bar and do better than what we have done in the past. It’s a great read that will challenge you personally and the ministry God has put you over. Go on over to Amazon and grab you a copy of Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid.

3 Leadership Lessons from Jeremiah

One of my favorite things to study and talk about is leadership. That is why part of my blog is dedicated to the category of leadership. As I read through Scripture, I try to look for Biblical leadership principles that I can apply to my own life and share with others. Recently I wrote a blog called “3 Leadership Lessons from Jude” that received great feedback. I recently started studying the book of Jeremiah and right from the start I saw a few leadership lessons I wanted to share.

Before I jump into them let’s talk a little about the person of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a prophet God called to announce judgement on God’s people because of their sin and disobedience. Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet” (Jer. 9:1; 13:17). For more than 40 years Jeremiah faithfully proclaimed God’s judgement. Jeremiah was truly a great leader and it would do leaders today to follow his example. With all that being said, here are three leadership lessons from the opening verses of the book of Jeremiah:

1. God has called leaders before they were even born. In verse 5 of chapter 1, it says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” Before leaders are even born, God has already called them to lead. As a leader, it is encouraging to know God not only has chosen me to be one of His elect, but has chosen me to be a leader! If you are in leadership and you struggle with wondering if your actually called to do what you’re doing, remember God knew you and called you before you were even born into this world!

2. God usually calls younger people to be leaders. I am not suggesting that God does not call older people to lead, but what I am saying is that most great leaders are called at a younger age. We see this in verses 6-7 of Jeremiah 1. God calls Jeremiah and what is Jeremiah’s response? He says, “I am only a youth.” According to the Ryrie Study Bible, Jeremiah was likely in his late teens or early twenties at this time! That should encourage you younger leaders! In the following verse, God tells Jeremiah not to respond that way because He is with him! Throughout the Bible we see that God usually calls younger people to be great leaders. In his book Raising the Bar, Alvin Reid points out two important things that are helpful to mention here. First, Old Testament examples such as Joseph, Samuel, and David show us that God calls and uses younger people to be leaders. Second, Reid points out that Jonathan Edwards, in his treatise called Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England, says, “The work has been chiefly amongst the young…” Did you catch that? Edwards clearly says that the First Great Awakening was carried out by mostly the young! Reid says it best, “When God begins a new movement of His Spirit, He often uses young people at the heart if it.” One more example of God calling the young. It is likely that the disciples where just teenagers as they walked with Jesus and went into their ministry of changing the world. There is too much to say about that here, so click here to read a post that will explain why many believe the disciples were just teenagers.

3. God will equip those that He calls. Often leaders don’t feel equipped or qualified to do what God called them to do. It is likely that is what Jeremiah felt when he told God, “I am only a youth.” God responds to that and reminds Jeremiah, and us, that He equips those He calls. In verses 7b-9 we see that God tells Jeremiah He will send him, He will be with him, and He will put His Words in his mouth. See, God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called! None of us are equipped to do anything for God, but when God calls us He gives us everything we need to carry out what He has called us to do. When I worked at Skyview Ranch the camp director said this, “God will never lead you where He will not sustain you.” Leader, God has called you to lead and He will sustain and equip you to do exactly what He wants you to do!

I hope these lessons are encouraging to you. Leadership is hard and down right discouraging at times, but God has called us to lead for a reason. Allow these lessons from His Word to encourage you today!