Books I’ve Read Recently

515XatoWK1L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Preaching by Tim Keller. Before reading this book it had been awhile since I had read a book on the topic of preaching. Since preaching the Bible is something I do regularly in my role I was excited to pick up a new book on the topic. I gained a lot of wisdom and practical insights from this book and I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves in a preaching role to read it. I’d also go as far as to say that all Christians should read this book since “preaching” is not just preparing and delivering a formal sermon. All Christians are called to proclaim the Gospel whether that’s at work, online, or in front of a large crowd. However, the majority of this book is aimed at those of us in vocational preaching roles. So this book is helpful to all Christians, but primarily for those in vocational preaching roles. Throughout this book there are several themes and main ideas that Keller covers. First, Keller points out the need for expository preaching and letting the Scriptures lead the way in preaching. This is primarily the focus in chapter one. Keller says, “I would say that expository preaching should provide the main diet of preaching for a Christian community” (page 32). Keller follows this statement up with a few reasons why he believes this and also a few dangers to avoid when doing expository preaching. Second, Keller rightfully argues that the Christ and the Gospel must be at the center of every sermon and should be preached from every text. Keller spends a good amount of time explaining how this can and should be done in preaching. Third, Keller highlights cultural narratives that will impact the way we preaching to an unbelieving world. This was a large part of the book but a very helpful section. Keller helps us understand the cultural narratives that impact preaching in our cultural context and shares practical ways we can preach God’s Word by engaging those narratives. Overall this was a fantastic book that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to share Christ well in our culture.

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Creating a Lead Small Culture by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, and Elle Campbell. Every now and then I read a church ministry or student ministry book that causes me to rethink and evaluate everything I am doing in my student ministry context. This was one of those books. I’m grateful the student ministry that God allows me to lead is healthy and has a good small group structure in place. However, we have areas we need to improve and our small group structure and strategy has some holes. This book has helped me strengthen our small group structure and better develop a team of leaders who serve students in a small group context. The whole point of a “lead small culture” is to have students (or kid if you’re in children’s ministry, which this book is for as well) cared for and ministered to in the context of small groups. Relationship and life change happens when students are connected with an adult that loves Jesus and cares for them. Real teaching, mentoring, and modeling happens in circles not in a crowd. This book walks through three main ways to create a lead small culture: improve the structure, empower the leader, create the experience. The book is filled with practical wisdom, insights, and experiences from other ministry leaders as they share how they have created a lead small culture in their context. If you’re a ministry leader that oversees small groups or just wants to make small groups more of a vital part of your church than you need to read this book. It’s simple, practical, but has the potential to change the way you do ministry to students and kids.

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Get Out by Alvin and Josh Reid. One of the common struggles local student pastors face is the struggle to get outside of their office and church walls and into the community where students are. That’s the issue this book addresses. This book is a practical book for student pastors who want to get onto their local school campuses and into the community where their students and their friends are. Alvin and Josh Reid say this about their book: “This book serves as a primer on student minister focused specifically on getting out of the church building and into the community to impact it for Christ” (page 15). This book helps student pastors realize a much needed shift is called for in student ministry today. We must see our ministry as bigger than our church walls and not just focus on our program and the students we have coming. We must go to the students that are not coming. We must meet them on their turf. We must reach students where they are at. In addition to all of that, this book is filled with practical advice from other student pastors and what they have done to get out and reach students in their communities. I’d encourage every student pastor to read this book. It’s challenging and will help you think about how you can get out and serve students in your community.

I’m currently reading 30 Events that Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky and plan to review that in my next “Books I’ve Read Recently” post.

What We Did This Week

This week we changed things up quite a bit for our high school ministry and had our last night of small groups for the school year for our middle school ministry. Both were great nights and went really well. Our attendance for both nights was down due to a high school band concert and camp for 6th grade student at our local middle school.

What We Did At Porch (High School)
Because we knew attendance would be down and we just spent six straight weeks going through the book of Acts we figured it would be good to have a night where we allowed our students to just hangout and build relationships. We pulled the church grill out and grilled up some hotdogs and hamburgers and just hangout. Also, since there was a Cavaliers playoff game on that night at the same time we showed the game on the big screens. Overall it was a fun night and everyone seemed to enjoy having a night to just hangout, eat some food, and watch the game.

What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Opening Video: Yawning Looks Like Yelling
Upfront Game: Secret Menu Items. This is a fun “fake or real” game from Download Youth Ministry that works great as an upfront game.
Group Game: Train Wreck. This is a game we do a few times a year because our students love it. You set two rows of chairs up facing each other on opposite sides of the room. When you say “train wreck” students must get up and run to another chairs across from them. Each time you have a leader pull one or two chairs from each side so a few students are eliminated. Depending on the size of your group, you may want to only pull one chair at a time or if your group is large you may want to pull a few so the game doesn’t last too long. Click the link above to download the graphic we used for this game.
Teaching: We didn’t have any teaching this week. Instead students broke into their small groups for one last time before the end of the school year (we take a summer break from small groups and weekly meetings) and just hangout.
Highlight: Watching our leaders hangout with their small groups for the last time of the school year. I love our small group leaders and am always encouraged by the way they pour into our students.

What We Did This Week

Dealing With Sin Social MediaThis week we had some pretty good nights in our student ministries. The attendance was way down for our high school ministry due to the local high school having a band concert that many of our students were involved in. However, we still had a good night and our middle school ministry night was good as well. Below are the details on what we did.

What We Did at Porch (High School)
Upfront Game: Animix. This was an awesome upfront game! Basically we show a picture of two animals and contestants have to guess what the name of the animal would be if those two animals were combined. It comes from Download Youth Ministry, but is only available right now to those that have a membership. So get a membership with them! It’s worth it. You get tons of awesome stuff.
Worship Set List: Jonathan Claytor, the Christ Community Chapel (Stow Campus) worship leader,  came and led in acoustic worship for us instead of our normal student band playing. Songs where Unstoppable God (Elevation Worship), Lord I Need You (Chris Tomlin), We Will Run (Gungor), I Am Not the Same (Aaron Keys).
Teaching: We continued our “Dealing with Sin” series by talking about repentance. The first part of the talk focused on what repentance is and the second part of the talk focused on what does repentance in the life of the believer look like. For the second part of the talk we walked through Psalm 51.
Highlight: Playing the game Animix. It’s tough to find games that work well with our high school students. This game worked well for us. It was fun for the crowd to watch and the contestants had a good time with it. I also enjoyed co-leading the game with one of our college leaders Tommy.

What We Did at Edge (Middle School)
Upfront Game: Animix (see above)
Group Game: Scatterball. This is by far the most popular in our middle school ministry. It’s basically dodgeball with only one ball (I throw in a few more balls throughout the game). You can only take up to three steps with the ball. Our students love it and we usually play it once or twice a month right now. Click the link above to get the graphic we use for this game.
Teaching: Twice a month we have small groups within our middle school ministry. Instead of me teaching we have students break into groups by grade and gender. Each group is led by one or two adult leaders. Students continued our “Dealing with Sin” series by talking about repentance in their small groups.
Highlight: Filling in and leading one of our guys small groups. I usually don’t lead a group but one of our leaders wasn’t there so I filled in for him. It was fun connecting with some of the students I didn’t really know and being able to talk with them about repentance.

3 Effective Ways to Structure Student Small Groups

???????????????????????????????????????Small groups are an important part of an effective student ministry. They are important because they move students past just showing up at youth group every week and listening to you teach. Small groups move students to a place where they can better develop community with their peers (and an adult leader or two) as well going deeper into God’s Word. These two factors, community and Bible study, will help them grow in their faith. This is what we want as student pastors. We want students to develop community and dig deeper into God’s Word. So we make small groups a part of our student ministry. But how do we structure those small groups? Do we do them in homes? Do we do them within our mid-week or weekend gathering? Do we make them something for every student or just students who want to go deeper? These are all good questions to ask when thinking about how to structure small groups in your student ministry.

This past year we restructured our small groups and are planning to tweak them yet again this coming year. Because of this I have been doing a lot of thinking about how small groups are structured in our student ministry. I have also been talking to other student pastors about how they structure small groups in their ministry. There are many different ways you can structure small groups. There is not one perfect way. Every student ministry looks different and small groups will look different in every ministry. However, I have seen and be a part of three different structures of small groups in student ministries that I believe are effective. Let me share those with you.

Small groups in homes of adult leaders outside your normal mid-week or weekend program. This by far is the most popular way to structure small groups in your student ministry. Basically students meet in small groups in leaders homes throughout the community. It could be on the same night or different nights. Leaders open up their homes and the students in their small groups meet there to build community and study the Bible. This happens outside your normal “youth group night.” The positives to this structure is that small groups are there as a “next step” for students who want to go deeper. You don’t force students who may not be Christians or that are not ready to go deeper into a small group. Your large group gathering serves as a place for non-Christians to feel comfortable and hear the Gospel. Also, this structure helps students feel safe and comfortable as they meet in a home. Plus, adult leaders get to display hospitality and fellowship by opening up their homes to students. The major downside of this structure is your asking students to give up another night of the week. They are already coming to your large group gathering and now you ask them to give up another night for small groups. For busy students this may be difficult and keep them from getting involved in a small group.

Small groups every other week in place of your mid-week or weekend program. This is the structure we are currently doing with our middle & high school students. We are actually moving away from this and going to in homes outside of our large group gathering for high school students next year, but keeping it this way for middle school. This is a great structure if you want to see all your students be in on a form of small groups. Basically small groups happen every other week in place of your large group gathering. You can have them come to the same place you meet for large group and then just have them split up into groups or you can have them meet in homes at the same time you would meet for large group. Either way, small groups happen on the same night/time of your large group. This is a great way to not make your students give up another night. It allows you to accomplish both large & small group ministry in one ministry night a week. The downside to this structure is you may scare away non-Christian students who don’t want to be in a  small group yet. Also, your students may not want to invite their non-Christian friends because they know they will be split up into small groups and it may be uncomfortable for them.

Small groups every week as part of your mid-week or weekend program. Basically you make small groups a part of your large group gathering. Most student ministries that do this will have small group following the teaching time so students can discuss what they just heard. Again, this is a great way to not make your students give up another night. Also, it helps every student get a form of small group ministry. I like this structure because it allows students to instantly discuss and talk about what they just heard. The downside with this structure is that you usually don’t have a ton of time for small groups so it may not accomplish the community goal of small groups. Also, students are only discussing what they heard instead of actually digging into Scripture.

There are a ton of other ways you can structure small groups in your student ministry, but these are three I have seen that are effective. How are small groups structured in your student ministry?

4 Areas of Ministry to Delegate to Your Volunteers

As student pastors we are called to not only serve students, but to equip our volunteers to serve students as well. We see this plainly stated in Ephesians 4:12 when Paul says, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” We must always being thinking about how we can better train and equip our volunteers. Not only train and equip them, but we need to make sure we get them plugged into some area of our student ministry. If we just equip them, but not get them involved in serving than we missed the point. Our volunteers are not just bench warmers for our ministry, they are vital to the success of our ministry. I want to share a few areas I have delegated to some of my volunteers. Delegation is not always easy, but it is necessary for the health and growth of your ministry.

Administrative Assistent. One of the areas many student pastors struggle is the area of adminstration. It may not even be they are bad at it, but that they just don’t have enough time in the day to get all the administrative details done. This is why an administrative assistant is huge for a student pastor! Unfortunately, many churches will not hire a staff person for this position so the student pastor is left to do it on his own. But this is a great area for a volunteer to step in and serve. You may have a volunteer that is extremely gifted in this area and will jump at the opportunity. I recently plugged one of my volunteers into this role in our ministry. She is going to come in once a week and help with administrative stuff. If you need help in this area, find a volunteer to delegate some of the admin stuff to.

WorshipYou may be blessed to have a completely student-led worship band, but many student ministries do not. A great place to start is to put a volunteer over this part of the ministry, particularly one that can lead worship or knows music, and let them run with it. Let them find students for the band and have them handle the worship side of your services. If your like me, you have no musical ability. I love music and can pick out good songs, but I have no clue how to form and lead a worship band. Find a volunteer that has a heart for this kind of thing and delegate this area of ministry to them. Also, they can become a mentor and leader to the students in the band.

Small Groups. This is probably the easiest and best way to get your volunteer involved. I believe every student ministry needs to incorporate small groups into their ministry (click here to see why). The only way to do this effectively is to have your volunteers become small group leaders. Rather that happens within your mid-week service or in homes throughout the week, use your volunteers as small group leaders. This will allow your ministry to disciple more students.

Event Planning. Planning events can take up a ton of your time and energy that should be used elsewhere. An area I am using a few volunteers is event planning. I give them an idea and they plan the event. This allows me to give them something to do and frees me up to do other things. There are some great volunteers out there that love this kind of thing. Find them and let them start planning some awesome events!

These are just a few area I am delegating to my volunteers. Without them my ministry would not be what it is. If your having troubling finding volunteers, I’d encourage you to check out a post I wrote a few weeks ago about selecting new volunteers. In it I give a few practical ways you can find new volunteers for your student ministry (click here to view that post).

[Question] What are some areas of your ministry you have delegated to your volunteers?