Monday, October 31, 2011

Incorporating the Arts into our worship

At Epic we are moving towards incorporating the Arts into our worship and last week we had a first experience where we went from a hip hop performance into our worship set.  In the future we are also looking to add percussion, dance, stomp and special songs into the mix.  I got this idea from Youth Explosion which is led by Chris Durso, check them out at  Here is a clip of a song that Donelle Cole (youth leader) and J'Juan Roberts (Epic student) specifically wrote for our Psalm 23 series.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Psalm 23 Recap

For the month of October we went through the entire chapter of Psalm 23.  It was awesome teaching this chapter verse by verse to our students and it had a major impact on their lives.  A couple cool elements we did for this series was every Wed night we started off the message reading out loud the entire chapter of Psalm 23 together and we put out a challenge for our students to memorize the entire chapter.  To help with the challenge we made a card that said Epic on the front and had the chapter of Psalm 23 on the back that we gave to all of our students.  We also are throwing a pizza party for all the students that can quote the entire chapter to us, it was really cool hearing about students memorize the chapter!

We also ended the series with our annual costume party, enjoy some pics of our best costumes!  The one in the black box was a vending machine with a claw inside of it but you can't see the claw.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Youth Leaders: Relationships + Trust Leads To Discipleship

In my opinion the greatest way to disciple a student is through a relationship build on trust.  Students are like Shrek, they are onions with lots of layers and we can't truly disciple them until we get passed the layers.  If we spend all our time focusing on the content and it's depth without building relationships a lot of times our words and what we teach or share will fall on deaf ears.  Their ears and hearts will open up when they trust us.  With that it's important to remember that trust is not given it is earned.  Here are some keys to earn our students trust:

1.  Love them unconditionally - When a student sees we love them and all of their mess it will definitely tear down some layers.  It will also open them up to allow us to help them with their mess.  This is huge!

2.  Longevity - The longer we are present in their lives the more layers will come down.  Our students are sizing us up, are we their for the long term or short term.  Longevity goes a long way to building trust with our students.  Also some students have more layers then others so it's going to take longer to build that trust, they only way to get their is through longevity.

3.  Consistency.  Not only do we need to be apart of their lives for the long haul but we need to be consistent, trying to build a relationship with a student only once or twice a month is very difficult.

4. Transparency - Share our stories and life experience with them, especially our failures.  When students see we trust them with our story they will start to open up and trust us with their story.  If we try to be all holy and act like we have no issues they will see right through that and the layers will stay up.

5.  Go the extra mile - whether it's visiting them at a school lunch, going to their event, buying them lunch or their favorite drink, a random text or phone call, this kind of stuff helps build trust.  It shows the students we care for them and their interests.  When I was a student I was always meant a lot to me when my youth leader came to my event, called me to check up on me and bought me lunch.  I knew he didn't have to do those things and when he did it showed he truly cared.  These things tore down my layers with the quickness.

To disciple our students we must pull back the layers and the best way to do that is through a relationship built on trust.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Youth Leaders/Pastors: Watch out for wolves!

I would classify the students that come into our youth ministry in 4 categories.

1.  Christian students.
2.  Students who are whoever they are hanging around with.
3.  Unsaved students.
4.  Unsaved students who want to attack the rest of the students.  These are wolves!

The students that are wolves are out to do damage and can hold your youth ministry hostage or scare students away.  We must not only watch out for wolves but if a wolf won't change into one of the other 3 categories we need to remove them.

Here are some characteristics of wolves so you can identify them:

1.  They have zero respect for authority and are defiant.  This student won't listen no matter what you do and will get very loud and ugly.  As soon as you identify them suspend them from your ministry.  We can't protect the rest of our students or ensure a safe atmosphere when we have a student that won't listen to anyone.  (this is huge, a student's response to correction is what we use to gauge are they a wolf or just a student that got out of line)
2.  They only listen to the youth pastor.  Wolves are crafty, they will act up until the youth pastor addresses them but as soon as the youth pastor is out of their site they are looking for their next victim.  Our students need to have the same respect for my leaders that they have for me.
3.  They are repeat offenders.  Again they try to be sneaky by spreading out their attacks.  We take notes on students we have issues with to catch this.
4. They attack other students.  If they start a fight, talk about fighting, bully or threaten another student they are a wolf and need to be suspended.

You may be thinking, "doesn't every student count," yes they do but we can't sacrifice all of the other students for the wolves.

In our eyes suspending them is ministering to them.  When we suspend a student here are things we do to minister to them through the process:

1.  We explain to them why they are being suspended and how their behavior is appropriate and that this kind of behavior will not help them in anyway.  They need to understand the why versus "because I said so."
2.  We notify their parents and ask them how can we minister to their student and offer to meet with them one on one outside of Wed night.
3.  After a student is suspended we follow up with them to see how they are doing, let them know we love them and are praying for them.
4.  Lastly before a student can come back we meet with them and their parent to set up a plan of action to ensure they don't revert back to wolf like behavior.

Lastly let me say I'm all about grace, Lord knows I was a heathen dog when I was a student so their may be exceptions to some of these rules but I still think it's something we need to be aware of and address if it comes up versus turning a blind eye and allowing a wolf to ravage our youth ministry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Youth Leaders: We Can't Do This Without You

To close this week I want to give a shout out to all of Epic's youth leaders and every youth leader in the world.  You are the backbone of our ministry and we can't do this without you!  Worship, small groups, set up/tear down or any other area of service can't survive without you!  Thank you for the countless hours, love and prayer you direct towards our students!    Because of you millions of teenagers across the world heard the good news of Jesus Christ, many got saved, healed, delivered and have hope because of your investment in their lives and your Christlike example.

You are awesome and never, never, never forget you ARE making a difference!  Even when it feels like you are not know that students ARE watching you, learning from you and ARE being impacted by you!  If you quit they would notice and would miss you, I promise!  So stay strong, refreshed and know you are appreciated.  Thanks again!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Youth Leaders/Pastors: Family First!

Our family should always come before ministry, but if we aren't intentional and paying attention to this it can easily shift to our ministry coming before our family.  This is an unhealthy place that can not only hurt our ministry but even worse it can hurt our family.  Look at what Timothy writes to those desiring to lead/pastor  

1 Timothy 3:4-5 says He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

Scripture is very black and white on this issue and I've made the mistake and have seen many others put ministry before their family in different capacities.  For me personally I'm guilty of putting more energy, strategy and focus on my ministry then on my family, this was a short but potentially very dangerous season in my life and I'm very thankful I got things back on track.  To help me get back on track I had to start looking at my family in the same light that I look at my ministry.  Here are a few thoughts that helped me out:

1.  As much as I love the ministry I should love our family more.
2.  For as much blood, sweat and tears I put into the ministry I should put in more for my family.
3.  For as much strategy as I put into the growth and health of my ministry, I should put more strategy into the growth and health of my family.
4.  For as much prayer as I pray for my ministry I should pray more for my family.
5.  For as much as I am intentional with my time for the ministry I should be even more intentional with time for my family.
6.  For as much as my thoughts are consumed by the ministry they should be more consumed by my family.
7.  I've also learned to say no to things that aren't top priority so my family is top priority.
8.  Another element that helped me was having people in my life I could be transparent and honest with, people that have an outside perspective to open my eyes to things I wasn't seeing.  If you don't have this person find them quickly!  We all need accountability.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm still leading my ministry to the best of my ability and working hard but now I'm also leading my family to the best of my ability and my family comes before my ministry.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Youth Leaders: Everything We Do Matters!

As a youth leader we are called and expected by God to live our lives to a higher standard as stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

1 Timothy 3:1-7 says Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

There is a ton of meat to this passage but for this post I want to focus on what it means to be above reproach because it speaks to the gray areas of life that can hinder our influence.  The simplest way I can explain it is if any of our words or actions could be perceived by parents, students or anybody as negative or questionable DON'T DO IT OR SAY IT!  Some people think well that's not fair, again read the passage above, as leaders we can't just do whatever we want, we must be above reproach, respectable and have a good reputation with outsiders.  Here are some above reproach areas to look at (side note I don't list these things to point fingers because Lord knows when I was a leader I messed up on all of them):

1.  Our attitude when playing sports.  Are we too competitive, sore losers or dirty players? 
2.  How do we react to a rude waitress/people?  Are we rude back or gracious?
3.  What are our posts of facebook and twitter like?  Are we negative, use inappropriate language, bash people?
4.  How is our language?  Are we bringing life or death with our words?
5.  What kind of movies, tv shows and music are we taking in?  Are they filled with perverse language, nudity or other inappropriate content?
6.  Are we flirtatious with students of the opposite sex or can our actions be perceived that way?
7.  How do we control our anger?  Do we lose control of show self control?
8.  When we mess up are we humble and make it right or are we prideful make excuses or blame others?

This is just a short list but I share it to show everything we do matters and will affect our influence in a positive or negative way.  A saying we use a lot and live by at People's Church is perception is reality.  If it can be perceived in a negative way by anybody we won't do it or will change it.  That action isn't worth losing the ability to disciple and reach out to students.  Therefore, in all areas of our lives let's be above reproach, respectable and have a good reputation with outsiders!

Examine your heart, words and actions and ask yourself this question: What do I need to change to live a life above reproach?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beware of being a buddy

As youth pastor's and youth leaders caring for our students and building relationships are huge as I mentioned in yesterday's blog but we must do it in a way that we don't throw away our influence.  We throw away our influence when we become what I call a "buddy."  We want to be leaders, role models and mentors not buddies.  When we become a buddy we are just like any of their other friends, this will definitely hurt our influence.  We must still maintain a level of respect with our students while we build relationships and have fun with them.

Here is how we avoid becoming a buddy:

1.  Don't worry about being cool, just be you.  Wanting to be cool can lead us into doing something stupid, immature that causes us to lose the respect of our students and even get us fired, lol.
2.  Don't condone or ignore reckless behavior.  If you see it or know of it lovingly correct them.  You also cannot be the person they do crazy and wild things with.  We spend so much time trying to be the fun guy let's not remember it's important to also be the guy who draws a line.
3.  Don't let them disrespect you.  This is gonna happen and you have to lovingly correct the students when they do it.  They need to know you are the adult and they are the student.  If you let them disrespect you they will start to walk all over you.  With that you have to be careful with how you interact and what you say to them.  If you are wrestling with them you have to draw the line (this pertains to guys more then girls, lol), if you are cutting up with them you have to draw the line, don't let these things get out of hand.
4.  Don't ever, ever let them disrespect your family.  Students don't see these lines at times, we must make them aware and by doing this we avoid being the buddy and can lead them strongly.
5.  Have spiritual conversations with them.  If all you ever talk about is farts, video games, cutting up, sports and never have a spiritual conversation you are simply a buddy.  You may think "but what if I'm living it out?"  We definitely need to do that but also talk it out, ask questions, this must be a follow up step to what you are living out.
6.  Challenge them.  If it's all fun and games and no challenges you are a buddy.  A mentor/leader is someone who challenges their students to grow and be greater!
7.  Have fun the right way.  Avoid doing things that can hurt students physically, get them grounded, give your senior pastor headaches, could get you or them arrested, basically if you are ever in doubt DON'T do it!
8.  When you mess up, cross a line, hurt a student or use bad judgment around them or to them make sure you acknowledge it, apologize for it and make it right.  This is huge!  Be humble, show your students humility.  Be prideful and you are looked at as a buddy, be humble and you are looked at as a leader/mentor.

Please hear my heart, I share this blog because I have made this mistake and I've seen too many youth pastors/youth leaders become buddies and throw away their influence.  Be a leader/mentor not a buddy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Care Factor

I have heard this quote many times in my life and it's key to having a successful youth ministry or ministry in general, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  Trying to minister, mentor and influence a teenager is not going to happen without a relationship.  When they trust you is when they will open up to you, until then they will be a closed book or putting on a show.  I remember spilling my guts out to my youth pastor but only after I saw that he cared for me, before then I put up a big ol front.  He saw passed that front but wasn't able to minister passed that front until I saw that he genuinely cared for me.  A position doesn't give us a wide open door to a student's life, a caring relationship is what will start to open the door.  So whether you are a youth pastor, youth leader, mentor or teacher our position will only get us so far, to truly influence we must care for our students.  Again students don't care how much we know until they know how much we care!  Here are a few practical steps to show students we care for them: (if you are a small group leader these things are a must to have a successful small group!)

1.  I don't want to take anything for granted and even though I think this is a given I want to make sure it is said, know their name!
2.  Take interest in what they are interested.  Ask lots of questions to learn their interests and to get them talking about their interests.  I'm not a gamer but I can talk and learn about video games.
3.  Go to their events and games, this is huge!  Every student loves having a cheerleading section when they perform.
4.  Love them even when they are acting unloveable.  Consistent care is key!  One moment of caring will rarely open the door into a student's life.  It will more likely take months, maybe even years!
5.  Pray for them and let them know it.  Maybe in your quiet time to pray for them, shoot them a text to let them know you are praying for them.  When you have opportunities pray for them in person.
6.  Call them just to say hello and see how they are doing.
7.  If they are missing call or text them to let them know they are missed.
8.  Be there for them in a time of need like when they are in the hospital, have a death in the family, etc.

If you have other ideas on how to care for and build relationships with students leave a comment!