Guest Post: Reflecting on 10 Years in Youth Ministry

1937455_10152259120917467_914258351961040144_nIt’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years already doing ministry with students. It does not really feel like it’s been that long, but certain things remind me that it’s been a while. I never would have dreamed that I would be hiring staff on my team that I had as a student in 7th grade (especially one I didn’t think would live to see 8th grade). There is also noticeably less hair on my head than 10 years ago (probably caused by that same 7th grade punk/now colleague).

I am still learning, but one thing I do know is that youth ministry is hard so I can understand why so many youth workers just do not last. To be honest, there are days I have wanted to quit…but that’s usually when I am focused on the wrong things. But I do know that when I focus on the right things, God has done inconceivably more than I could ask or imagine. Here are 3!

It’s About a Calling. Ministry is too hard to just see it as a job. It’s a calling from God. I sensed God’s call to youth ministry in high school, but that may have had more to do with how cool it sounded to get paid eat pizza, play dodge ball, and go on ski trips. The call became more clear about 2 years into actually doing the ministry. Someone in our church approached me and said, “It feels good, doesn’t it?” I said, “What feels good?” He said, “Doing exactly what God made you to do.” That was true. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t always feel warm and fuzzy. There are trouble kids that make you crazy, disappointed parents, all-nighters (not a fan), hurting families, dirty jobs, and so many reasons why youth pastors leave early. You know you are called when you face those challenging times and get up the next day wanting to keep going. God has put the gifts, passions, and personality in me to use me in this ministry. It’s not just a job, it’s a calling from God.

It’s About the Gospel. If it were not for my utter dependence on the truth of Jesus Christ found in the storyline of the Bible, I would never last. As a matter of fact, I would have never started. I was not evening looking for Jesus, but He was looking for me. You see, I understand that the debt I owe because of my sin is too great for me to possibly pay back on my own, but God loved me so much that He gave me Jesus, to pay the debt of my sin so that I could be in the relationship with God that He created me for. Believing that truth takes me from death to life. As a youth pastor, I need Jesus more than the air I breathe, and so I preach it to students like there is no tomorrow. The Gospel keeps me going. Without it, I am just a glorified church babysitter to keep students busy and entertained.

It’s About the Students. Since it’s all about the gospel, then it’s also about students knowing the gospel. To last, you need to love students. Students aren’t always likeable, but they can always be lovable. I have always tried to remember that Jesus thought each student was worth dying for. That’s love. Because I know the gospel, I try to see students not just for the mess that they are, but for who they can become in Christ. In 10 years, I have seen some pretty broken students do some amazing things for God because they grasped His love for them. It’s those stories that keep me going.

There are probably other little secrets and practical tips, but so far it boils down to those 3 things. My ministry has really just begun. I am only scratching the surface of what God can do, and I hope that I always feel that way.   God’s grace on my life is abundant to save me and even consider using me in ministry!

Todd Iannetta is the student ministries pastor at Christ Community Chapel, a multi-site church in Northeast Ohio. Todd oversees the student ministry and staff across all four campuses. Visit his blog or follow him on twitter.

How Leaders Can Read More

Reading_in_Practice_MALeaders are readers. As leaders, we hear and know that phrase well. But reading takes time and discipline that sometimes we just don’t have enough of. We have a list of books we want to read, but our schedules are so packed we don’t know when we will ever have time read them. For some of us, we just struggle with the discipline of sitting down long enough to read a few pages of a book much less an entire book. But if leaders want to be better leaders than they need to be readers. I want to share a few tips on how you as a leader, or as someone who may just wants to read, can read more books.

Make an effort to read at least 30 minutes a day. In college I had a friend who would read books left and right on top of his required reading for classes. At the time, I was struggling just to keep up with what I had to read for classes and the thought of reading books outside of that seemed impossible. One day he told me how he did it. He said he simply makes himself sit down for 30 minutes a day and read. Sometime he may go over that, but he would make himself read for at least 30 minutes. It sounded simple enough so I gave it a shot. To my surprise it worked! So much so, I still use this principle today. I have a sticky note on the wall near my desk in my office that says “30 min a day” to remind me. Leaders are usually very busy people, but reading 30 minutes a day is manageable and not hard to do. Give it a shot! You will be surprised at how many books you can work through if you read at least 30 minutes a day.

Understand the different ways you can read. There are many ways you can read. I recently have started trying to understand more about this and the different ways to read. What helped me was a recent article I ran across on Tim Challies site entitled “7 Different Ways to Read a Book.” I have learned the value in not reading every book the same. Based on the book and why you may be reading it, you may have to change up the way you read it. I would encourage you to look over the seven different ways you can read a book from the Challies article and apply that to your reading.

Always have a book with you. This is another tip I picked up in college, but this one came from one of my professors. He was teaching a class on Acts and part of the required reading he assigned was a commentary on the book of Acts. You normally don’t sit down with a commentary and read it cover to cover. But for this class we were required to do just that. The commentary he had us read was a pretty technical commentary so it was a pretty heavy thing to read through. He knew it was not an easy assignment and it would take a long time. Right after he told us about this assignment during the first class he said the key to reading a lot is to always have a book with you. He told us how he would always be carrying a book with him so even if he had a 5 minute window of time he could read. I applied that and finished that commentary quicker than I thought I would have. I still do this as well today. It’s a simple thing many people often don’t think about. Carry a book with you and pull it out when you have a few minutes here and there.

Reading is an essential part of growing as a leader. However, reading takes time and discipline. I have found that making time to read each day for at least 30 minutes, understanding different ways to read, and always having a book with me has helped me not only become a better reader, but has helped me read more books.

Tips for Preaching From an iPad

I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I wanted an iPad was to preach from it. Preaching from my iPad is probably the main thing I use my iPad for on a weekly basis. It seems this trend is becoming more popular and you see more and more pastors preaching from an iPad or a tablet. With this new trend comes some opposition as well as much support. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter if you preach from an iPad or not. What you preach with or from is not a big deal, it’s the actual preaching itself that is important. But if you do decide to preach from an iPad, here are a few tips that I have learned along the way that may help you:

Don’t make a big deal about it. If you preach from an iPad, don’t make it a point to flash your iPad and make sure everyone in the audience knows you have an iPad. I recommend keeping it on the pulpit or podium so no one sees it while you are preaching. Your iPad is just a tool you are using to share God’s Word, keep your focus on the right thing.Try and keep it out of the audience view as much as possible. More than likely there will be people out there that will get distracted and maybe even jealous when they see you have an iPad.

Use a physical copy of the Bible. If you preach from an iPad, please DO NOT use a Bible app, such as YouVersion, instead of a physical copy of God’s Word. Call me old school, but I think it’s important to preach from an actual copy of the Bible. Use your iPad for your notes, not your Bible. Plus, switching from your notes to a Bible app will be extremely distracting to you and your audience.

Use a good app for your sermon notes. Make sure you have a reliable, easy to use app to have your sermon notes on when you preach. When I preach, I have my sermons on the Dropbox app on my iPad. For me, Dropbox works the best and is easy to get my sermon notes to. After I write my sermon manuscript as a Word doc, I simply drop that Word doc into my Dropbox on my Macbook and then open it up in the Dropbox app on my iPad right before I go up to preach. There are other apps you can use, but I recommend Dropbox.

Try not to look at your iPad too much. This doesn’t just apply to your iPad, but your notes in general. Be so familiar with your sermon content that you don’t need to look at them much as you preach. Stay engaged with your audience and don’t be glued to your notes on your iPad. I try to run through my sermon two times or more before I preach so I will be able to preach and not look down at my notes that much.

These are just a few tips I would share with anyone who is or is thinking about preaching from an iPad. Every good gift comes from God (James 1:17) so use your iPad as a good tool He has given us to expand His kingdom. Use it as a tool to help you preach His Word better and more effectively.

[Question] Do you use an iPad or a tablet when you preach?