What Youth Ministry Can Learn From Kevin Durant

One of my favorite NBA players is Thunder’s Kevin Durant. I love his playing ability, but love his humble attitude even more. If you have been keeping up with sports you know that the NBA just got done being in a pretty long lockout. Durant didn’t let the lockout keep him from doing what he loves, playing basketball. Early in the lockout he joined a nationwide street ball tour, then starting doing exhibition games with other NBA players, and even showed up to play flag football on OSU campus! After watching Durant’s attitude and activity during the lockout, I believe youth ministry can learn a few things from him.

First, we must leave the church and go where students are. I’m not saying we should cancel youth group and small groups to go out on the streets, but what I am saying is that we must make an effort to reach out to students who will never come to our youth meetings or small group meetings. For a long time youth ministry has been operating in the “come and see” model where we build awesome youth buildings, have a rocking band, and wrap it up with a relevant talk. I’m not saying this model is wrong, but it’s not enough! For youth ministry to be effective we must also operate in the “go and reach” model where we don’t just expect students to come to our youth meetings, but we go where they already are and reach them with the Gospel.

For example, this past fall I worked with a ministry called The Hangout. The Hangout is a ministry that reaches out to Jr. High and Sr. High students in the Medina, OH area. Buckeye Middle and High school had to cancel busing so over the past few years students starting hanging out across the street at the library. Because of the amount of student hanging out the library starting complaining. Doug Bryant, youth pastor at LifeSpring Community Church, and Billie Conrad, member of Weymouth Community Church, decided to provide a room in the library every Friday where the students can come, eat food, and hangout. The students come and go, but the adults that help out have the opportunity to hangout with the students and build relationships with them. Working with this ministry showed me that there are students who will never step foot inside your church and if we don’t go out where they already are and reach them, no one will.

Secondly, we must love ministry enough that if  the position was taken away we would still do it. Let me explain. Currently I am looking for my first full-time youth ministry position. The search and wait is long, hard, and exhausting. The other day it hit me, would I still “do youth ministry” if God didn’t supply me a youth pastor position. So often myself, and others,  think that to do ministry we need the position, but doing ministry should be our life! Kevin Durant didn’t stop playing basketball when the NBA season was gone, he kept playing. I hope and pray that we will continue to do youth ministry even when the “position” is taken away from us for some reason or the other. Maybe it’s the church letting you go or your only hired as a part-time youth pastor. Your ministry is not defined by your position! God saved us so we could do ministry as a lifestyle.

I love youth ministry and encouraged by the direction it is currently going. But I hope and pray that we will not settle and always look for ways to make it better. God has called us to reach students and teach them His Word. As culture changes, we must change our methods as well. The message will always stay the same, but let’s be flexible with our methods so we continue to reach students with the Gospel.

Why You Should Use Dropbox in Ministry

About a year ago I started using Dropbox after two of my professors at PBC told me about it. Since then I have been hooked and use it for many different things. There are countless reasons why you should use Dropbox and many ways you can use it, but I want to highlight how you can use it in the area of ministry. If you are in church leadership, Dropbox is a great tool for you! Here is a few ways you can use Dropbox in ministry.

1. File Sharing. When I was volunteering as a leader at The Grove, a student ministry in NC, I oversaw a lot of the media and technology. Every week I would set up the media and get all the videos and files together to run on ProPresenter or EasyWorship. Josh Evans, the student pastor, and myself set up a shared Dropbox folder so he could just drop the videos, announcements slides, and whatever else he needed for the night in the folder and I was able to pull them up on my laptop and import them into the program. Also, as I was interning at Weymouth Community Church I helped get the media up and running at one of their new campuses and we used Dropbox as well. We created a “church media” folder in Dropbox where we dropped all the motion backgrounds, countdowns, and song files so the media guy can easily pull them up on the media computer at the new campus. Sharing files on Dropbox is extremely fast and easy! Forget sending e-mails with huge attachments and having to take a flash drive along with you, use Dropbox to share files with others in your ministry.

2. Make files public. I love using Dropbox for this! When you get a Dropbox you get a “public” folder where you can drop things and it will give you a link to each thing in your folder. For example, if you go to my “preaching” page on this blog you will see links to audio of my sermons. All I have to do is drop the audio file of my sermon in my “public” folder and paste the link on my blog. When someone clicks that link it pulls up my file and they can listen to the sermon. This feature is much like Google Docs where you can share your documents with the public. If you have documents and files you want others in your ministry to be able to view, use Dropbox to publically share your files.

3. All your files on multiple devices. This is another great reason to use Dropbox. Let’s say you are working on a document on your desktop computer in your office, but you have to go home soon. If you have a Dropbox, you can install it on as many devices that you want including laptops, iPads, iPhones, and almost every other device. So you can leave the office and go home and as long as that file is in your Dropbox you can open it up at home on your iPad and continue working. The cool thing is that when you make changes to a document it saves it in your Dropbox on every other device. For example, I have a folder in my Dropbox that has tons of eBooks and PDF book. This is nice because I can pull an eBook up and read it on my iPad or if I’m in the office I can pull one up on my laptop. Having all your files on all your devices is another great reason to use Dropbox.

As I said earlier, there are many reasons why you should use Dropbox as well as many ways you can use it. These are just a few of the ways I use it. If you are using Dropbox I’d love to hear the ways you are using it and if you are not using at least check it out by clicking here. Install it and give it a try!

Teenage Disciples

This past week Dan Jarvis, lead pastor of Weymouth Community Church, wrote this as his Facebook status:

Would it totally mess up your faith to realize the disciples were teenagers when they walked with Jesus?

After reading this status and seeing some positive (and negative) feedback I wanted to see if this was true for myself. In Exodus 30:14-15 it says that every Jewish man over the age of 20 had to pay a temple tax. With that in mind, if you go to Matthew 17:24-27 you read about a time when Jesus and His disciples went to a temple and only Jesus and Peter had to pay the temple tax. So we can assume that the other disciples did not have to pay the temple tax because they were under the age of 20. What does this mean? The disciples were teenagers! So often we don’t give enough credit to teens and say they are just rebellious trouble makers. We need to realize Jesus decided to invest His life into a group of teenagers who flipped their world upset down for Jesus. With that in mind, I want to share with you a blog post Greg Stier posted on his website a few days ago. He shared some thoughts on why we should focus on teenagers.

There’s a certain level of patronization that happens to those who work with teenagers. Youth leaders will hear things like “When are you going to become a real pastor?” (As if being a youth leader was some kind of second class ministry position) or “It’s good you are working with teens because, after all, they are the church of tomorrow” (making the bad assumption that teens can’t do anything of spiritual significance today.) As the leader of a ministry focused on teenagers I get sick of hearing these kinds of pronouncements.

I was a church planter and preaching pastor for ten years at a thriving church. We started with 23 people and grew to 1,200 when I resigned having 62% of our congregation who trusted in Jesus as their Savior through our direct ministry efforts. It was a great and growing church. And I left it all to pursue reaching teenagers for Christ. Here’s why:

1. Teenagers are a more open audience than adults.

We have all heard the statistic that 85% of those who come to Christ do so by the time they are eighteen years of age. If this statistic is even mostly accurate then it has tremendous ministry implications. If you were in sales and knew that the demographic most likely to purchase your product were 18 years of age or younger you would put the vast majority of your marketing money into reaching that age group. But that’s exactly opposite of what the typical church does.

The average church puts the vast majority of its budget into building programs and other programs that cater to the needs of the adults. If there are outreaches they usually come in the form of expensive Easter/Christmas programs that no unreached teenager I’ve met would have a desire to attend. Maybe it’s because adults “tithe” or can serve on a committee but churches are missing the mark when it comes to hitting the most spiritually open demographic…young people.

If our “currency” in ministry is souls and our “sales” is evangelism then why wouldn’t we “cash in” on the audience most likely to say “YES” to Jesus? Forgive the crass analogy (evangelism is not sales) but it just doesn’t make sense to me why the church doesn’t focus more on teenagers.

I was once asked by a well-known ministry leader why I focused on reaching teenagers when I could have a more appreciative audience by focusing on adults. I told him, “When you work with adults you need a jack hammer and a wheel barrow. You use the jack hammer to break up the concrete first (the hardened ideologies) and then wheel barrow out all the broken pieces before you can pour the wet cement. Working with teenagers I just get to pour the wet cement.”

2. Teenagers are a more strategic audience than adults.

Teenagers can take the gospel further faster than adults. The average teenager has tons of online and face to face friends and, according to one study by NPR, the average teenager has 100x’s more influence on their friends than a stranger does. If teenagers can be inspired, trained and unleashed to strategically and lovingly leverage this influence for Jesus the kingdom of God could exponentially accelerate in our nation through the young souls that are reached by young souls.

Jesus took a group of mostly teenaged disciples, trained them over three years and unleashed them to shake the world. He could do the same thing today. But we must stop looking at teenagers as pests or pariahs and see them through the eyes of potential. If we want to be strategic in reaching the world for Christ we must start with young people.

3. Teenagers are a more “un” audience than adults.

“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

God loves to use the unlikely and underestimated to do the unimaginable. There are no more “un ones” than teenagers. And God wants to use them, not later, but now to advance his kingdom.

How can you get started unleashing teenagers (your kids, your kids friends, your friends’ kids, the teens in the youth group at your church, etc)? Why not start praying for them and get them to join the cause of Christ.

Let’s stop patronizing teenagers and let’s start mobilizing them for the greater glory of God and salvation of humanity. What say you?

I would recommend a book called Do Hard Things for anyone who think teens cannot do great things for Christ. I would also recommend this book to teens who want to be motivated to make a difference in their world for Christ. Click here to order a copy for a great price from Amazon.

Evangelism Principles from Jesus

This past Sunday Dan Jarvis, lead pastor of Weymouth Community Church, preached a sermon from John 4 about evangelism. As he was preaching through the passage a few evangelism principles stood out to me. These principles come straight from how Jesus shared the Gospel with the Samaritan lady at the well. If you are not familiar with what is going on in John 4, I would encourage you to read it before you read the principles I am about to share. So, let’s get to it! Here are three evangelism principles we can learn and apply from Jesus in John 4.

Intentionally go where no one else will go. In John 4:3 the Bible tells us that Jesus was leaving Judea and was heading to Galilee. Between these two places was Samaria. The Jews and Samaritans did not like each other and most Jews would totally avoid Samaria if they were headed to Galilee. But not Jesus! Jesus intentionally went straight through Samaria. Jesus knew there were people in that area that needed Him and He was not about to avoid them just because most Jewish people do. When it comes to evangelism, we often do not think about going to the places that need it most. We stay away from the inner city, the projects, other races of people, and even unreached tribes in other countries. Jesus intentionally went where others did not. We should do the same. It’s easy to evangelize people like us or people we are “comfortable with,” but there are cultures, places, and people who need it just as much. Will you intentionally go where others do not for the sake of the Gospel?

Break cultural norms. There was this cultural norm that Jewish people do not talk to Samaritan people. Jesus was not about to abide by that stupidity. He already broke one cultural norm by going into Samaria, now He was going to break another by talking to a Samaritan woman. If we want to evangelize like Jesus, at times we might have to break cultural norms. These cultural norms can be within the church. You might come from a church that is very “high standard” and would not be to happy with you bringing a drunk or a drug user to church with you. But you might have to break that stupid (yes, not allowing those kind of people in church is stupid!) cultural norm by bring that person to church. Or maybe people in your church, or the Christians around you, are not ok with going into certain places to evangelize. Jesus did not let that stop Him, don’t let it stop you!

Use something relevant to connect and share the Gospel. In verses 10-15 of John 4, Jesus uses water to explain the gift of salvation (the “living water”) to this lady. Why did He use water? He was at a well! Wherever you are, use something the person will understand when you share the Gospel. Stay away from the Christian words only Christians understand. Don’t use illustrations and examples that only you understand. Use something they will understand and present the Gospel through means they will understand. Be creative when you share the good news of Jesus!

Two books I would recommend on the subject of evangelism are Share Jesus Without Fear by William Fay and Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid.

A Heart and Gift to Preach

This past Sunday I had the privilege to preach four times! I preached at the early service at the main campus of Weymouth Community Church and then at the 10:30am service at the south campus. Then during the afternoon I preached at two local retirements homes. It was a long, exhausting day of preaching, but the Lord gave me strength to preach His Word each time. It was last year, my junior year at Piedmont Baptist College (in January new name will be Piedmont International University. You can read my thoughts about that here) when the Lord started giving me more of a heart for preaching when I had the privilege to take Homiletics and Expository Preaching with Dr. Tim White. It was in those two classes that the Lord started giving me a greater desire to preach as well as equipping me to do it well.

Two things happened last year that showed me that God really has given me a heart and gift for preaching.

First, I got to preach my senior sermon in chapel at Piedmont. All the senior guys that take Homiletics are required to do this, but for me it was the hard work, preparation, and blessing I received out of it that helped me see my desire and gifting to preach. Click here to listen to the audio of that sermon.

Second, I was honored to received the Expository Preaching award my school gives out to one student each year. It was those two things that really showed me I have a desire and gifting to preach God’s Word. Since last year I have been given the opportunities to preach many times and everyday it seems like God’s gives me a greater passion and desire to preach. Myself and others have seen that God has given me a heart and a gift to preach God’s Word.