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.

3 Ways to Use Student Leaders in Your Ministry

12771549_10209197367077562_8672662913260402396_oAn important aspect of student ministry is student leadership. Every student ministry needs student leaders. When students begin to lead and take ownership within their student ministry amazing things happen. It’s important we give students leadership opportunities instead of just making our staff and volunteers do everything.

But how do we use student leaders in our student ministry? There are countless ways to do this and it will look different in every student ministry. However, there are three key ways we have used student leaders in our ministry that I think can be translated to almost any other student ministry.

Planning. One of the worst things we can do is plan events for students without actually getting any input from students. If we want to have an event that connects well with students we need to know what they want and don’t want. We need to discover what things are popular in their world and what would reach other students in their context. For the past two years we have been using our student leaders in our planning process for events and retreats. It’s been a game changer. Our events and retreats have gotten much better because of this. Don’t be afraid to ask student leaders for their ideas and input. Also, don’t be afraid to give your student leaders ownership over an entire event. We have done this and are planning to do it even more in the future.

Interacting with new students. Our hope should be that all our students are welcoming and interacting with new students when they come into our ministry. We can’t expect every student to do that. However, we can expect our student leaders to do it. When student leaders join the team they should be reminded that they will be held to a higher standard and will be asked to lead in various ways. So one of the things we require all our student leaders to do is to be on the lookout for new students when they walk in. If they see one, they are to go talk to them and hangout with them throughout the night. The phrase we communicate over and over to our student leaders is this – “No student left behind.” We want every student to feel welcomed and to feel like they belong. We don’t want them left alone in any way. This will require a lot of coaching on your part. You may have to remind your student leaders of this every week. But it’s worth it. Students interacting with new students and making them feel comfortable and welcomed is huge!

Teaching. Yes, I said teaching. Don’t be afraid to step aside and let your student leaders do some teaching. This will require you to do a lot of coaching but it is worth it. Walk your student leaders through how they can plan and teach a lesson or a whole series. Give them time to then do that together. Once they are ready give them the stage. Have them teach for a night or a few nights. Students teaching God’s Word to other students is an awesome thing. This may sound risky to some but it’s a risk that’s worth taking. It will help your student leaders grow in their knowledge of the Bible as well as how they can communicate it to others. One of the highlights of this year has been watching our student leaders plan and teach an entire series.

These are just three ways we use our student leaders in our ministry. I’d encourage you to try these three things with your student leaders. Also, don’t just settle for these three. Be creative and find your own ways to use your student leaders.

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Finding good games for your student ministry can be a very time consuming thing. In order to help other youth workers save time in this area I want to share the games we played this past month in our student ministry. All of these games went pretty well and were fun for our students. Be sure to click the game title to download the game graphic or purchase the game content. As a side note, you will notice many of these games come from Download Youth Ministry. I love DYM and the amazing content they are providing for youth workers. If you find yourself using their stuff often you should look into getting a DYM membership. You get tons of member only content as well as $20 store credit monthly for games and other content! One of the games we did this month that isn’t listed below was a game that was only available to DYM members. So become a member and get cool member only stuff too! Now to the games. Here are the games we played last month.

Whip or Nae Nae
How it Works:
All your students know the song “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” They probably also know the dance moves to go along with it. This is a simple game where the crowd must pick a move – the whip or the nae nae. The game content comes with a video that will have both moves rotating and then when you are ready you can stop it by clicking which move you want it to stay on. Whoever picks that move is in (or out depending on how you want it to work). The games continues until there is one person left.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

Poop Deck
How it Works: This is a classic game that is always a hit. Divide the room up into three parts: low deck, mid deck, and poop deck. Everyone starts in one of the decks and must run to whatever deck the game leader calls out. Last person into that deck is out. You continue until there is one person left. You can also throw in “man overboard,” which means everyone must go touch a wall and “hit the deck,” which means everyone must drop to the floor and lay on their stomachs.
Supplies: Something to divide the room into three decks. We just tape down lines on the floor.

Lady, Knights, and Horse
How it Works: Students split up into groups of two. They each start on separate sides of the room and when the game leader calls out one of the three positions they must get in that position with their partner. “Lady” means one must jump into the arms of the other. “Knights” means one must get on one knee while the other sits on their knee. “Horses” means one must get on both hands and knees while the other sits on their back. Last group to get into position is out and the game continues until there is one group left.
Supplies: None!

Ninja, Gun, Gorilla
How it Works: This a twist to the classic game paper rock scissors. Students find an opponent and must stand back to back. When they turn around they must pick one of the three things: Ninja (get into a ninja stance), Gun (make a hand gun), or Gorilla (beat their chest). When someone wins they find other winner to play. Game continues until there is one person left.
Supplies: None!

Turkey Bowling
How it Works: We did this at our Thanksgiving night with our high school students. We put down two rolls of painters plastic to act as “lanes.” We then used 2 liter soda bottles for the pins. We decided the group up by girls and guys and had them bowl with frozen turkey breasts. It was awesome!
Supplies: Painters plastic, 2 liter soda bottles or real bowling pins, and frozen turkey breasts or turkeys.

Cell Phone Shootout: Truth or Dare
How it Works: This is one of my favorite games from DYM! It has a few different versions and this truth or dare version was my favorite so far. The game content comes with a video that has a various truths and dares that rotate very fast. Your contestants must use their cell phone to snap a picture of the video screen. After they snap a picture look at their phone and find out what truth or dare they took a picture of. They then have to either answer the truth question or perform the dare.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

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!

What We Did This Week (Senior Night and Edguation Edition)

This week was a big week in our student ministry! On Tuesday night we had Senior Night in our high school ministry where we honored and celebrated our seniors. As you will see, the whole service was pretty much focused on them. Then on Wednesday night we had Edguation in our middle school ministry where we honored our 8th grade students and sent them off to officially become part of our high school ministry. Both nights where incredible!

Porch Senior Night Social MediaWhat We Did at Porch (High School) – Senior Night
Worship Set List: The Ascension (Phil Wickham), All Things New (Elevation Worship), Man of Sorrows (Hillsong), Jesus I Come (Elevation Worship), and Oceans [Where Feet May Fail] (Hillsong United).
Video: 2015 Senior Video
Teaching: Every year for senior night I prepare a message just for our seniors. It’s always something all the students need to hear but it’s specifically for the seniors. This year I did a talk called “4 Questions to Ask Yourself As You Graduate High School.”
Highlight: I have three highlights from this night. First, after my talk I brought all our seniors upfront and had them sit along the stage. Then I asked everyone else to gather wound them and place their hands on them. If they couldn’t reach them they were to touch the person in front of them. Then I opened the floor for our students and leaders to pray over our seniors. For about 5-10 minutes we lifted up our seniors in prayer and it was amazing. Second, we had Porch alumni shirts designed and we gave one to every senior. The shirts looked awesome and the seniors loved them. Third, the worship was incredible! The band rocked, our two seniors in the band were singing their hearts out, and the students in the crowd where going at it. I saw students who normally don’t show any emotion in worship lift their hands and sing their hearts out to God.

Edguation Social MediaWhat We Did at Edge (Middle School) – Edguation
Opening Video: Worst Doctor Ever
Upfront Game: Lego Lava Walk Challenge. This is something I ran across on Download Youth Ministry. We did it as an upfront game with all our 8th grade students. We spread about eight pounds of legos across the front of the stage and had each 8th grade students walk (or run) across them. We timed each one to see who could do it the fastest.
Video: Edge Announcement Video (this was by far my favorite announcement video to film because of the end – watch it).
Group Game: Scatterball. We play this game a ton in our middle school ministry and our 8th grade students requested it for Edguation. We did a few round for just them and then a few for everyone. It’s basically dodgeball, but with only one ball (we throw a few more in to speed it up) and you can only take up to 3 steps (when it gets down to a few people we let them take as many steps as they want). Click the link above to download the graphic we used for this game.
Teaching: Every year at Edguation I prepare a special message for our 8th grade students. This year I did a talk called “3 Things to Keep First As You Enter High School.” I also did a live interview with one our high school students at the tail end of my talk where we talked about following Jesus in high school. Click here to listen to the talk.
Highlight: Watching our 8th grade students leave the room and walk into a huge crowd of high school students that were cheering for them (and spraying silly string and blowing horns). Then they went to another room where they hangout, talked about our high school ministry, gave them free stuff (Porch shirt, ESV compact Bible, and a invite to Porch).