Posts Tagged With: Youth Ministry

The Power of Summer Camp

As a youth pastor summer camp is a must. It provides the greatest opportunity for relationship building and spiritual development and serves as a launching pad for he rest of the year. I have literally seen a youth group go from blah to BAM over the course of a single week of camp.

Summer camps are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere. There are a lot of theories and methods behind how to do summer camp. Some choose to do their own some go to camps that have a lot of structure, some little structure.

But the key thing is summer camp done right is a big deal.

Two years ago today I arrived at summer camp. Specifically at Crossroads Summer Camp a ministry of Clayton King Ministries. it would be the third year I had brought a group to Crossroads but it would prove to be a defining year in the philosophy of how I do ministry and how I choose camps and conferences.

As we arrived at camp, I was a wreck. My grandmother had just been murdered a few short weeks before, there were struggles at our church that had become unsettling and overwhelming, we had just had VBS which meant two solid weeks of 70 hrs of work for me. So I was toast.

BUT

I. COULDN’T. WAIT.

FOR.

CAMP.

You see, I knew that when I got to camp my students were going to be ministered to, they would fall in love with Jesus all over again and they would fall to their knees and worship Jesus in sweet and beautiful tears.

I also knew that I would too.

Many times camps for youth are filled with good quality stuff but, if you have been in church for any considerable amount of time in church, it can seem superficial or elementary.

But, and this is where I have defined my philosophy, Crossroads doesn’t settle for superficial. They dig deep, they challenge students and adults to reflect on the truth of God’s Word.

I will never forget falling to my knees on the second day not able to sing a word sobbing into the shoulders of one of my students as we were led in the chorus of “You Hold Me Now”. As God ministered to my broken heart and I began to heal I realized that camp was as much for me as the students.

And now I know that a camp, conference or service that is going to be great will be great for both your students AND your leaders. And year after year I have experienced that with Clayton King and Crossroads Summer Camp.

And that is why for the first camp with my new church we are in Anderson SC for #CRSC15.

God is good and I already have so much to say. More on that later.

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3 HUGE Mistakes I Made in Ministry

I have been serving in ministry in some role since I was 17. I have served as an intern, part-time staff member and full time pastoral staff. As I look back on some of my experiences I have thought about all the struggles I have faced and while it would be easy to point the finger and place the blame I believe it is more important to identify my failures. As I am in a transition period I have had a chance to reflect on my most recent ministry experience and I have identified 3 HUGE mistakes that I want to share (NOTE I’m not sayin I only made three mistakes just that I want to talk about these three)

 

#1 Failed to have a realistic understanding of the identity of the church.

When i first started at my previous church I walked in taking everything at face value. If I asked a question I just accepted the answer as truth. What I realized shortly after starting is that sometimes the truth is hard to explain and even harder to admit and that  people don’t always paint a clear picture for you. This was a HUGE mistake because when I walked in I walked in with a truckload of expectations and excitement that could never be met because it was based on a false understaning of the identity of the church. And it wasn’t the church’s fault, it was my job to understand what I was walking into and to form my expectations based on that not vice versa. I wound up being frustrated very quickly because of my expectations not being met and what was worse is I didn’t realize until much later that it was my fault to begin with!

#2 I set the bar too HIGH.

I am sure you think this is ridiculous we are supposed to set the bar high shoot for the stars and never accept anything les. Right? Well, ok, sure go for that but watch yourself. Like I said before about identity expectations need to formed on truth not fantasy and so do goals. The problem with aiming for lofty goals is that you may be ready to aim for those goals yourself but those around you may find those goals (and the path to those goals) overwhelming and will start to jump ship very quickly if you are not careful. And if you start losing your crew you will soon have a sinking ship. Make goals that aren’t easy to achieve but not so aggresive that people can’t handle the idea of tackling those goals

#3 I started believing the negativity and criticism.

There are always whispers and rumors floating around and, if you are in the position of leadership,  alot of it is going to be about you. After a while I started believing that all the negativity I was hearing was truth and I reacted to it and in the process I recoiled away from those I was entrusted to lead, not because I didn’t want to lead, because I was fearful that I might perpetuate the negativity that I was accused of. When faced with negativity we should seek the counsel of people we trust and then rely on our convictions to guide us. In other words I stopped trusting my gut and in the end it was proved that my gut was right all along.

 

I made many many mistakes in the last fifteen years and will make many more. Hopefully we all can grow and learn from the ones that are already passed.

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Starting a New Chapter

One of the hardest things I have found in ministry is the knowing of when you have finished a  chapter and it is time to move on to the next. There was a point and time this year that I felt like I may be at that point but I could not bring myself to simply walk away with no other ministry to go to.  My wife and I talked at great length and I decided to steal a page from Gideon and ask for a sign. In my prayers I was very specific and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted and He has graciously answered my prayer.  It wasn’t necessarily pleasant or an exciting moment when I got that answer but it was undeniable. And so last week I submitted my letter of resignation to Reedy Fork Baptist Church where I have served the last 5 almost 6 years. It has been a wild ride along with plenty of ups and downs but I can conclusively say that this chapter is over.

So what is next?

I don’t know.

As of right now I have no job to go to , no church to attend, no house to live in. I have some time to figure all that out and have some options available to me. What I do have is peace and clarity. There is something very exciting about knowing that God gave you the exact thing you asked for even if it was the last thing you really wanted and knowing that this is exactly what He wanted.

It hurts.

It hurts to say goodbye. It hurts to walk away from something I built up from near nothing. It hurts to know that so many that counted on me for things in the community will have to find someone else.

But I have no worries for myself. No worries for my family. And I look forward to the day when God reveals more about the next chapter of this thing I refer to as my calling.

Oh and if you happen to know of a church looking for a really great guy to be their youth minister….

Tell them I am available anyway

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry, Religion | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

It is NOT about Relationships

At least not just ANY relationship.  We can develop relationships all day long but if as Christians we are not modeling our relationship building after Christ then we ARE going to FAIL!

We see in Matt 9, Mark 2, Luke 5 and 19 the types of relationships Jesus invested in, relationships with people who were hurting, broken and condemned by society.  We spend WAY too much time developing the wrong relationships with the wrong people for the wrong motives. Here are some examples.

1. Developing a relationship to gain financial support

2. Developing a relationship to gain power and control

3. Developing a relationship for personal glory and praise

4. Developing a relationship simply for personal friendship

While these types of relationships are not “evil” they are not what we are given by Christ as a model.

This is essential to pastors and ministers to understand and even more essential for the laity to understand and support their pastors in through allowing them to exercise their calling but also in rolling up their sleeves and joining in reaching out to those broken people Adam Mclane posted on His blog today that he was “not satisfied with reaching 5-10% of the population” and I agree. For far to long we have allowed churches to be community/family clubhouses and have forgotten the world outside.

Tomorrow I will talk about the types of relationships I am building in Youth Ministry and how I believe they are foundational in any youth ministry trying to reach hurting teens in their community.

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Loving All, All the Time

I had the privilege of serving with a man named Chris at NYWC  201o. Chris is a youth ministry vet who has been loving on kids for 20+ years and to call him a character would be the understatement of the century.   Personality is this man’s middle name and you cannot help but smile when he is in the room. But with all the laughs and cutting up, the stories and the off the wall sayings what was displayed even more prominently, and more importantly, was Chris’ love for others.  I had the privilege of not only working with Chris but also spending down time with him as well, whether that meant eating a meal or walking to and from the hotel or shopping in the YS Store or just browsing the Exhibit Hall.  Wherever we were wherever we went Chris never met a stranger.  His interaction with every single person was as if he had known them for a lifetime and he truly showed care and in each and every person.

I will confess that many times when I am running in the store of gas station that I blow by people and never think twice about who is waiting on me.  What really is sad is that I used to work retail and I know how big a difference a customer with an outgoing personality can make in a employees day. I have even said to myself years ago that I wanted to be that guy.  Often times I will forget peoples names and simply brush it off with lame excuses but not Chris. Within a day of being at the event he had learned every name not just on our team but on the entire YS staff that was onsite for the conference which must have been a good 50 people.  And it was more than just memorizing, he had genuinely gotten to know each person and cared for each and every one of them.  When we would walk through Chris would take time to speak with anyone who stood still long enough whether that be a security guard or a janitor or a YS staffer.  With a smile on his face and a kid word on his lips Chris would make sure that everyone in his path would be left with a smile.

As I sat in my office reflecting on this week and my experience and what I had learned what convicted me the most was how I fail so many times to love the people around me whether I know them or not. It is really a powerful thing, a difficult thing to be sure, to love all at all times but oh so important and a lesson that hope to be able to learn.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Life, Ministry | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Troubled

I spent the first three years of being a bonafide paid youth minister working in a church that was nestled in one of the worst communities in our city.  At its height, the community was a middle class , blue collar, family oriented community.  Through the years it became a rental community full of transients and criminals.  The church suffered and when I was hired it had gone from a thriving church with hundreds in attendance in the late 80’s to a paltry group of 20-30 people.  They had a new pastor with outrageous and courageous  ideas and a heart for the community and he had started a community outreach on Wednesday nights feeding the children and youth in exchange for their time in a short Bible study. When I started the Bible study was my responsibility.

Now understand something about Jason Roth. I ain’t nothin’ but a white boy from the country straight out the trailer. Excuse my English but it is the truth.  Other than having very little growing up I had NOTHING in common with these kids.  I did however have the insight of having worked in the neighborhood reading light and water meters. I had visited most of their homes to get readings and I had seen their living conditions.

Quite soon after I got there  I realized that I was going to need to do something different. My teaching style wasn’t working, we had too many behavioral problems, the girls quit coming and things were just a mess. So I had to sit back and ask God what I needed to do.  As i walked my route each day reading meters I fervently prayed asking God what it was that He would have me do. Through those prayers God  birthed a vision in me that, when implemented, saw great success for the kingdom. It was not without hard work though we had to make some drastic changes.

If you are ministering to troubled inner city teens here is my advice

1. Smaller groups- The larger the group the harder it will be. Recruit teachers and rotate with them so that you can have maximum exposure with them

2. Age appropriate groups- The younger ones feed off the older ones keep them separated

3. Gender specific groups- The guys show out in front of the girls and the girls do not like the guys. Believe it or not even though they present themselves as buying into the trashy image they are really little girls who feel offended by the ways the guys treat them. Our female attendance went from 3 to 23 in 6 weeks.

4. Don’t get worked up- These kids don’t get attention at home so if you get all bent out of shape they get what they want. If one acts out tell them to leave and see you afterwards.

5. Move to a topical approach- Expositional teaching is a little more than they can handle. Focus it in on how Scripture applies to their life. When they realize that God speaks to them and not just the suburban middle class white kids they begin to open up

6. Actively pursue understanding of their situation- I don’t know what race and cultural barriers you face but likely there may be one if not several. You have to learn everything about their culture that you can so that you understand just how rough they have it. Take a walk through the neighborhood. Go hang at the Ball courts. Just look and listen. Take some people with you if you don’t want to go alone. Interview some of the grandmothers in the area. There are always grandmothers that would love to have someone pray for their grandkids with them. Ask them tough questions be real and honest. It will open your eyes wide.

7. Develop trust- Don’t be a narc! Let the kids know you are not there to learn their secrets and then turn them in. Say it early and often.

8. Make a plan- Write down the course of action. Put in the steps and show your people that it is going to take time but you are working on things progressively. If you have it down on paper it will show  you are thinking critically and are organized enough to do this job. People will get behind that.

9. Encourage- These kids get told everyday how worthless they are through verbal, emotional and physical cues. Tell them they can be more, that they can do better. That simple phrase will mean more than you will ever know.

Most of all follow God’s direction every church is different and He has a special plan for you if He has put you there.  Feel humble and honored that He would charge you with so great a task.

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Ministry | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Down from the Mountain

Having  just come back from an amazing weekend with our youth group it is an easy thing to get down.  After all we experienced coming back down to reality is a little depressing.  Most of us in the ministry recognize this as a mountaintop experience and understand the brutality of the realization that we have to exist in the real world where it seems we are in a losing battle at times.

We need to understand though that this is not unique to our time or our place. In fact we are provided with a number of instances of this very problem in the Scriptures.

Moses- Ex 32

After being on the Mount with the Lord. Moses had to return to reality and the reality was that the people of Israel were already turning their hearts away from the God that had delivered them.  Can you imagine how Moses must have felt? Here he was meeting with the Lord of Lords and his people that he had sacrificed so much for were worshiping a golden calf!  Talk about depressing! So then Moses has to go into leader mode and rebuke the people. Not what I would want to be doing after meeting with God.

As a minister I can relate.  It seems that the moment i walk in the door after coming back from a trip I am confronted with the fact that there are people even in my own church that are more concerned with worldly matters and there own self satisfaction than the movement of God.

Elijah- 1 Kings 19

In 1 Kings 18 Elijah has this amazing victory over the evil prophets of Baal. God worked a miracle beyond anyone’s belief and Elijah was left standing as His victorious prophet.  Fast forward to chapter 19 and Jezebel has threatened his life.  Elijah must have been wondering why God would give him such a victory only to allow him to be killed by the same evil that he had been trying to overthrow.

Sound familiar? I think we all know of someone that has come home from a mountaintop experience to be confronted with a life crisis. Whether it be an issue with work or home, personal, material or emotional we all know of someone that has had to face a crisis.

Jesus- Lk 9:41

Yes!! Even Jesus had to face this problem. Jesus goes up and is transfigured and discusses what His death will mean. I imagine that this was an exciting conversation. To be talking about the salvation of the people He had created surely got Christ pumped. But as He came down off the mountain the first thing He was confronted with was a complaint about His disciples. His response clearly shows His concern.

Don’t you just love to have to deal with complaint’s? They are bad enough when you are not coming off a mountaintop experience but having to be dragged down when you are focused on things much higher and nobler is quite rude.

The point is the world is going to be ready to destroy our optimism and excitement but we cannot let that divert us from the course that we must take. The closeness with God always reveals to us what we need to do so we need to do it!! Now go do it…..NOW!!

Categories: Everyday Thoughts, Ministry, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top Resources

A good friend was asking about what websites and resources I use in ministry. I honestly get a lot of creative stuff off  the internet and it is such a blessing to be doing ministry in a world where resources are readily available. After our conversation had gone on he suggested I do a blog. So here it is

Software-

Adobe Photoshop Elements– I use this to do all my own logo work/ graphic work. I picked up the older version off ebay at a bargain bin price still sealed in the box

Koyote Free FLV Converter- I just found this. It is for downloading videos off of sites like youtube and will save it to you computer. It is a free download from the Koyote website.

E-sword- This is a free bible study software complete with concordance dictionary several commentaries and multiple versions of the Bible available for free add on. It also offers certain material add-on’s for a small fee. Available for download via the E-sword website

Open Office– For those of us who cannot afford to purchase Microsoft Office Open office is a great alternative. It offers a document writer, spreadsheet, database and presentation software. There is no publisher which is a downside but it is all free available for download from the Open Office website

Google Chrome- I love this browser!! Simple clean and functional free from google

Websites-

First the obvious ones

Google.com- You can seriously find ANYTHING on Google. Just type it in it isn’t that hard. Some of you may think this is silly for me to list this but you have know idea how many people say that they cannot find or do something I can google it and have what I need in mere minutes. whether it be a brush for Photoshop or a manual for a piece of equipment laying around I can usually find it.

Youtube.com- As with Google, you can find almost anything on YouTube. I get videos for worship and for sermons as well as silly video that I use in all in our Youth service on Wednesday nights

Facebook.com- This is the numer one communication tool I have. I have more facebook contacts in my church than I have email addresses. If I need to get the word out I use facebook. If you aren’t using it then…. well you need to.

Now for some lesser known

Savevid.com- If you are antsy about downloading freeware to your computer this is a great online option.  Here is the main reason I use it. I don’t always have internet when I am teaching/speaking somewhere and if I want to have a video I am going to need it on my hard drive. This has been one of my most valuable resources keepvid.com is similar but has more downtimes.

Deviantart.com- Once you have Photoshop then you need some “brushes” to make the graphics you want. This is where I find all of mine. I may not always find exactly what I am looking for but I usually find something suitable. Brusheezy.com is a good site as well

Pastor2youth.com- This site is amazing and I use it all the time. If you need a lesson or a game or even a release form this is the place to go. It literally has THOUSANDS of resources available for FREE. It has saved my butt many a time at the last minute

Bestofyoutube.com- When I really want a funny YouTube video this is where I turn. It breaks things down out of the vastness of the YouTube realm and gives me a slimmer set of options when I don’t have time to  muddle through countless videos trying to find one suitable for our service

Well those are my picks and I am sure there are some I have forgotten but hopefully those will help you out.

Categories: design, Everyday Thoughts, Ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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