Thursday, August 21, 2014

"Your Parents are Wrong!"


"Your Parents are wrong!"  

I make this comment at least a couple times a year when speaking to students on the topic of moral decision making in the context of Discipleship (fancy word for following the example and direction of Jesus in how life should be lived).  The comment reflects a reality that parents, and surrounding adults, have the ability to negate and/or disqualify the moral directives of Jesus by the way they live their lives.  My wife Lisa and I often say, "We can not out teach what happens in the home or surrounding adult community. We are just not that good."  So, when teaching on moral decision making, the statement is a challenge for students (all of us actually) to follow the example and direction of Jesus over any authority that stands in contradiction with His lead.   Just in case you are wondering, I do not incite students to riot against authority (could be awesome but very irresponsible).  We are to honor our father, mother and those in authority over us (that is also part of discipleship-Ephesians 6; I Peter 2).  Still, as a Disciple of Jesus, his authority over our moral decision making is of first priority-we do call Him Lord of our life. So...

"What should I wear?"
"How should I speak?"
"What movie should I watch?"

"Should I do my own homework?"
"What music should I listen to?"
"How should I view authority?"
"How should I spend my time?"

are decisions that SHOULD be impacted by our commitment to follow Jesus as Lord.  Again, "Your Parents are wrong!" is not a statement derailing adult authority.  It is a statement highlighting the elephant in the room.  Adults (speaking to myself here) need to live with the weight that the way we live our lives before our students (our own and others) directly impacts the way they make moral decisions.  Check this out:

“the most persuasive moral teaching we adults do is by example: the witness of our lives, our ways of being with others and speaking to them and getting on with them—all of that taken in slowly, cumulatively, by our sons and daughters, our students.”
–Robert Coles, The Moral Intelligence of Children

Hard Reality:  Students with the very best, morally solid, examplar adults in their lives can make the worst decisions (it is all that free-will stuff).  

Harder Reality: If your student is making poor choices, the first place you should look is at the moral witness of your home and surrounding adult community.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Read this Church: A Sticky Faith Testimony

There is actually a joke that often circulates around my office and other church staff meetings. It is more of a comment concerning the number of times the word "Intergenerational" comes up when I am involved in ministry conversations.  To be honest, I love that the word has become a part of our church's vocabulary and love every time the word is used in any context.

David, "Why do you love being annoying?" (annoying may be a bad word, let's say persistent)

Because focusing on Intergenerational relationships in Youth Ministry create a wonderful tapestry of support structures that help students embrace and mature in their faith.

I want you to read the blog post from one of our recent 24:7 Student Ministry graduates.  I do not share this to "brag" about our church and ministry programs (I could brag about the greatest group of adult volunteers in the world).  I also do not share this to highlight one student above another (all of our students are wonderful).  I share this as a testimony of the impact a church with an Intergenerational focus can have on a young person's life.   By the way, I asked permission to use his post but you may want to make this young man's blog a regular read. Here is the link


Thank You

This blog really has a dual purpose. First and foremost, I’d like to thank everyone who has been involved with The Hills Church of Christ 24:7 Student Ministry, to any degree, for changing and shaping my life. The second purpose is to brag on what an amazing student ministry 24:7 has been, and will continue to be in the future. But first, a disclaimer..
*In no way, shape, or form does my declaration of immense gratitude to all 24:7 related parties signify  the end of my contact with said parties, or the participation in said ministry. I plan on staying active in the lives of those at The Hills, and will be as involved as humanly possible while living three hours away. You can’t get rid of me that easily.*
Now before the tears start flowing, thank you…
The Hills Elders and Senior Staff: Thank you for being possibly the most loving and caring church leaders on the planet. While The Hills is the only church I’ve attended regularly for the last 13 years, I’m well aware that many church leaders do not look upon the youth of their congregation with the same fondness and respect I have seen from you. I love that you have thrown out the old saying that “children are the church of tomorrow” and have actively sought to make us a part of the church today. I can’t imagine other churches having most of the senior staff speak for the youth group on an annual basis like Rick Atchley, Cary Branscum, Mike Washburn, Charley Taylor, and many others have now done the past few years. Even more incredible is the way you have attempted to integrate teens into the church wide ministry boards whether it be Men’s ministry, Women’s ministry, or Missions. Saying that we are the church of today is one thing, but asking us to take responsibility for what is going on in the church is another level of confidence that means the world to me and many others who want to feel like an important part of the church. Thank you to the elders who constantly prayed over us before retreats, camps, mission trips. The words of blessing sometimes spoken at 7am or earlier on a Saturday morning mean more than I can fully appreciate. Thank you for the way you treat the youth staff. From watching and hearing stories of how my dad was treated by elders and senior staff as a youth minister, I should have no desire to become one. But because of the love and respect I have seen you give Dave, Jason, Darin, Melanie, and Nicole, I have hope for my future church to want show Christ to all they meet, regardless of age.
The 24:7 Youth Staff: Thank you for literally changing the course of my life. I have no idea where I would be going and what I would be doing with my life if it wasn’t for your love and example. It was 8th grade when I first decided I wanted to become a youth minister. At that point it was just cause I loved worship and liked the idea of going to camps and retreats and getting paid for it. But over the last four years, especially this past year, you have taught me what being a youth minister really means. It is so much more than anyone on the outside could ever imagine. You have let me in on the heart of 24:7. You’ve shown me hearts aren’t always pretty; tensions flare, stresses rise, patiences are tested, and heartaches happen. But the joy I’ve seen radiate through you in spite of all you have seen is what is truly inspiring. Thank you Darin and Melanie for getting me hooked on 24:7. Until E-camp my 6th grade year I wanted nothing to do with 24:7 and the OKC and Little Rock mission trips made me realize the joys of serving others. Thank you Jeff and Jason Allen for being a light in my life from another campus. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with each of you on trips. Southlake and WFW are in excellent hands with the two of you at the helm. God is doing amazing things through you. Thank you Nicole for the impact you made on so many teens lives while you were here. I learned a lot from hearing stories of you counseling students and watching you work in the lives of many of my friends on incredibly intimate levels. Nashville is ridiculously blessed to have you changing lives there. You and Melanie have been shining examples that women are needed in youth ministry. Thank you John for all the things that you have done with the band and your creative inputs throughout the ministry. Also thanks for helping me realize I could sing. Leading worship with you is one of my absolute favorite experiences in 24:7. Thank you to Jason and Dave for putting so much into my life to help me grow foremost as a man of God, but also as a future youth minister. The experiences you have given me I wouldn’t trade for anything. Whether it was letting me on staff at e-camp, taking me on speaking engagements, letting me teach lessons, or just talking with me about life, you have shaped the way I look at life and at ministry specifically. If I could be half the men you are, I would be perfectly content with my character and my ability to minister. Thank you to all the staff on each campus for being an example of Christ to so many teens over the years and for years to come.
2013-07-05 01.44.12
The Adult Volunteers: Thank you for being what likely separates 24:7 the most from other student ministries. I have never seen such a large group of adults care so deeply about kids that were not their own. However, many of you have treated me like one of your own and because of that I am truly blessed. D-groups have shown me what it means for the body of Christ to raise children. The love that I have felt from The Wards, Halls, Peschells, Jones, and all the other parents of my class involved has kept me on the path for years now. I love knowing that just because I’m farther away the relationships don’t end and you will continue to make sure I’m on the path. Thank you to the Herrera’s. Brian and Angela, you have been actual family to me and I often forget we aren’t actually related. It feels like I have known you forever but its really been less than three years. But in that time you have opened up your home and opened up your lives for me and so many others. Your transparency is inspiring and your willingness to give advice and encouragement is wonderful. I don’t know what I would do without your family. Thank you to all the volunteers who have simply talked with me and encouraged me throughout my 24:7 experience. Without you 24:7 would not be the safe place it has been for countless teens who desperately needed caring and Godly adults in their lives.
The Students: Thank you. I am honestly at a loss on how to display the affection I have for all of you. I have been blessed by so many who have come and graduated before me but blessed my life and gave their friendship to me. I have so many dear friends in classes behind me who consider me a role model but I learn more from them than they possibly could from me. Awesome things are going to happen through 24:7 because of those of you who will be leading in the years to come. Thank you most of all to my fellow graduates. We did it. We made it through the hell that was middle school and thrived in the joys and pains of high school because of the bond we have with each other through Christ. I have no doubt that I have been a part of the greatest class to have ever gone through 24:7. The things that you all will do with your lives for the Kingdom are limitless. I don’t know what to say other than each one of you has my undying love and regardless of us going separate ways, we are still the body of Christ. In times of joy, we will be there. In times of pain, we will be there. In times of normality, we will be there. In times of uncertainty, we will be there. When time is no more and Heaven has come to earth, we will be there.

2014-06-28 00.08.27
“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” -Jeremiah 24:7


As I look at the picture Jared shared above (Senior Class 2014), I am certain many, if not all, of these students could share stories of a church and adults who have impacted their spiritual journey in "Sticky Faith" manner.

Senior Pastors, Executive Ministers, Student Ministers, Adult Volunteers, takes effort, causes frustration and there are mistakes that can be made when in attempting to keep an Intergenerational focus in programming (I know, we make a lot).  Still, the results are worth the cost!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Satire is not a dirty word!

The Summer Student Ministry Season is coming to a close and the Fall is rapidly approaching.  If you are a Student Minister, Volunteer, Parent, Intern, Senior Pastor, Executive Minister...well...if you are anyone presently involved in Fall Ministry planning, I have a video and a few suggestions to share as you go through your planning process.  But first, a definition. 

Satire:  Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government or society itself, into improvement Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society. -The Wikipedia (My personal "satire" italicized)

I love Satire.  Yes, it can be painful when it hits close to home, but is helpful in exposing and starting discussion on issues that need attention and/or correction.  Get ready, this humorous satirical look at Youth Ministry is a toe stomper.


Perhaps OUCH, but awesome!

This satirical look at Youth Ministry can remind us of couple of things as we jump into Fall Ministry Season. 

The Authenticity, Motivation and Theological Purpose of Student Ministry programs are and will continue to be scrutinized by teenagers.  Teenagers are seeking authentic engagement with the adult community of faith.  Yes, they want to have fun and build great relationships in a safe environment, but they need Jesus.  Don't substitute the deep, radical, life changing call of Discipleship to follow Jesus with an invitation to a christian-based social club.  The numbers make us feel good, but they know the difference and so should we.

Teenagers don't want to be "talked down TO" they want to be "Invited to follow WITH."  Student leaders, if not careful, can reduce the radical call of the Gospel into a sin management plan (Dallas Willard had a lot of great things to say about this).  The Gospel is Jesus and Discipleship, at its core, involves a commitment to follow Jesus.  More than a good talking down to about their moral depravity and need for a savior (I am pretty sure they know the need), they desire an invitation to join other believers who know the cost and reward of following Jesus.  

Happy Fall Planning!