The Calling Sticks in Corinth

jobs, transition

This morning I heard what I needed to hear.  Like, so bad.

Acts 18.  So, here’s Paul: Paul was asked personally by Jesus to be His witness and to go make disciples.  Paul goes and has some luck and visits 25 cities in 5 years, but is tired and burnt out.  And out of all the places to get led to, God takes him to Corinth.  Corinth is like our modern-day Vegas;  full of idols, prostitutes, and sin.  So Paul, who more than anything probably thinks he needs somewhere calm where he can just relax, has to go probably his hardest place yet.

And what happens? Well, he’s broke. So he begins building tents again for money.  He’s ministering “part-time” because he has to live.  And slowly, God begins to meet his needs.  He brings Priscilla and Aquila to help him make money, and he ends up making friends and disciples. As he makes new friends, old ones come about: Timothy and Silas come and bring financial support.  And Paul, throughout this process, never ceases to proclaim Christ.  It looked different at times, but he knew his calling and stuck with it through all the changes.  God affirms him and then blesses him by having Paul stay there for a year and a half, building some of the strongest churches yet.

Paul, this saint, this man whose writings I read more than anybody else who has ever lived, whose words have shaped my theology and my understanding of Christ–he was burnt out at one point.  He was “part time” at one point.  He was in a place that didn’t appear to meet his needs.  He was stuck doing a job that he wasn’t passionate about in order to be able to live (or even in order to minister!).  He had hardships.  But he stuck through it all, and no matter if he was able to minister “full-time,” “part-time,” or in prison, he just did it.

This is so encouraging to me…and it reminds me how important it is for me to not hold off “ministering” just because I’m not in my ideal position to minister. This may be where God wants me for years to come (how scary is that?), and instead of “sucking it up” I need to embrace it and do what He has called me to do.

The calling sticks…even when in Corinth.

Apathy is not the Problem

christianity, church, leadership, unchurched, youth ministry

Teenagers do well if they want to.  This is a “fact;” there have been many resources trying to help parents, leaders, and youth workers get their teenagers to be less apathetic.  I’ve read some of these, and agree that apathy is certainly a problem.  So, we spend week after week at the pulpits trying to inspire teenagers to commit to change.  We pour into their lives with discipleship, trying to get them to see that someone cares about them, and therefore they should care too.  Yet at the end of the day, we leaders can feel extremely empty and dry.  I know personally that I can pour out everything that I have into students and often times it dries me up emotionally, physically, spiritually.  I read articles that tell me how to motivate, but I feel like I’m doing my best job!  I’m sure everyone who reads this relates to this frustration.

So what if apathy isn’t the problem?

It’s certainly a problem; I mean, if it’s not our teenagers’ lack of motivation, what is stopping them from growing in faith?  Instead of simply trying to inspire them, what if we looked at what they’re apathetic about and encourage change in action and not in behavior?  The mentality is no longer “Teens do well if they want to,” but “Teens do well if the’re able to.”

This model was first described in the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene.  Watch him explain more about this idea in this video.  I attended a training session on this idea this last month, and wanted to share what I learned with the youth ministry community.

Under the mentality of “Teenagers do well if they’re able to,” it’s no longer about if they want to or not.  Some teenagers want to advance the gospel but still can’t because all they’re being told is “do it” but they don’t know how.  Some teenagers want to quit a particular sin, but don’t have the tools to stop.  They want to, but can’t.  If you give them the tools, they’ll be able to.  And for those teenagers who don’t want to, even Martin Luther King couldn’t inspire that teen; but if you teach them the tools, they might change without even wanting to.  It’s like a teenager who doesn’t want to go to school–the underlying problem is they think they are stupid.  If you educate them, they can succeed anyway, even if they never wanted to. Ha! Tricksy!

This changes our roles as youth leaders drastically:  We are no longer a motivator, but an equipper.  Greene says that with the old model, our job greatly narrows what the teenager can do in their life–making them want  to do something and nothing more.  Under this new model, pastoring is not as much about transferring our desire for the gospel, but our knowledge of the gospel.  Pastoring isn’t about motivating teenagers with the best fluff and feel-good stuff you got, but about giving them the tools.  Sure, apathy is a problem.  Yes, we should definitely try to inspire and motivate our students to share the same passion as us.  Of course, there will be some teens that don’t change; this model is not the answer to all of your youth ministry problems.  If you give them the tools and they still aren’t changing, then you shouldn’t feel dry as you may have before; you’ve done your best job as a youth pastor.

What do you guys think about this model?  How do you think this may impact the way that you do ministry? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Prayer Requests from a Youth Pastor in Newtown

church, networking, prayer, youth ministry

This is copied directly from http://teenbuilding.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/my-conversation-with-a-youth-pastor-from-newtown-ct/

We are all still reeling from the school shooting that happened this past weekend.  This afternoon, I had the privilege of talking with a youth pastor from Newtown, CT.  He works with children and teenagers in his community just minutes from where the shooting happened.

There was a lot that he and I talked and prayed about.  Here are a few of the prayer requests that he said that I could feel free to share.

1.  For his personal healing.  Help him find joy in suffering.

2.  Many of the families in their church were friends or associates with victims families. 

3.  That God would use this tragedy for His Glory.  Provide a spiritual awakening in the town.

4.  The town is crawling with media and it’s proving difficult to try and live any semblance of normal living.

5.  The church wants to help and is trying to find their role in the healing process.

6.  There were kids from the youth group that had recently gone off to college that had known Adam Lanza.

7.  Healing for kids and teens who are trying to reconcile so much during this time.

8.  For Christmas joy.  Newtown is a town that always makes a big deal of Christmas and many people have taken down decorations because of the guilt they feel for celebrating.

9.  How to address the youth group kids in the coming days, weeks, months.

10. Wisdom for the youth ministry network of 8 guys in the area.

I’d encourage you to take a moment to pray for these 10 requests.  Feel free to post in the comment page any encouragement that you’d like to share with him.  I’ll be emailing him this post.

If you have any comments you’d like that youth pastor to see, go to the original blog post at http://teenbuilding.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/my-conversation-with-a-youth-pastor-from-newtown-ct/

Confessions of a Lazy Christian

christianity, faith, leadership, youth ministry

I have fallen.

I admit it.

I have inherited the apathy of my culture.

I’ve been lazy.

 

I suppose it has happened over time. It’s generally not something that happens overnight.

I think Bible college has something to do with it.

So does my called profession.

 

I got lazy somewhere along the way: confusing exegeting for a Sunday morning with my personal quiet time; mixing up praying with students and praying for students; leading people to God and letting God lead me to Him.

 

I know we all get to this point…so I am encouraged.

I’ve known this for a very long time, I’ve acknowledged it; I have even prayed for forgiveness countless times and “vowed” this would be the last time.

But.

It wasn’t.

It won’t be.

 

I’m so thankful for a God who does not see my deeds, but my heart. My heart does yearn for him, but I have been lazy with it.

 

When I got serious about my relationship with God, it was for my calling to ministry. But now that I’m out of college and out of teaching three times a week at a church, I need to rediscover a relationship with God outside of ministry.

I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart takes time to cook outside of her shows, and I’m pretty sure that P. Diddy raps even when not in rehearsal, and I’m pretty sure that Jeff Gordon races his car down the highway (who doesn’t?).

So I’m pretty sure that God, who I love more than Martha loves cooking, is worth time outside of ministry.

I need to relearn what that looks like.

 

I decided that next year, I am going to go through the book “Celebration of Discipline” and concentrate on a new discipline every month, slowly re-incorporating them into my every day life. January: Meditation.  I will re-figure this out.

 

No, I don’t think I’m in spiritual danger.

Yes, I want a deeper relationship with God.

No, I’m not taking a hiatus from ministry.

Yes, I will study the Bible outside of when I have to teach it.

 

I encourage you to take this journey with me.

Feeling Boujie

Blogs about Heather, christ, faithfulness, fun video, identity, media, music, testimony

Holy cow, I can’t even describe how I’m feeling right now.  5 years ago, I was dirt poor both physically and emotionally.  I surrendered my life to ministry and went off to college, and my life drastically changed.  When I had my first hot shower in three years, I knew things were going to be different.  And while I’ve recently had some bits of financial blessing, it’s the love that I have discovered from my friends and Christ that make me feel boujie.

I’m sure all of my white friends are like, “What’s boujie?” Boujie is when a person acts as if they are rich (they may or may not be, in my particular culture it means they aren’t). So, usually this has a negative connotation. Yet I feel like I’m living life as if it has value, as if I have value. I feel like I have it all (even when my bank account says otherwise). I am boujie.

For fun, I included this video to describe the word “boujie”…and an insight to my life living in St. Louis ;) (excuse the one curse word)

The Need for a Contextualized Youth Ministry @youth_min

Contributions, youth ministry, youthmin.org

youth ministry contextualization

This post originally appeared here: http://www.youthmin.org/the-need-for-a-contextualized-youth-ministry/

Every week, there seems to be dozens of posts in my blog roll along the lines of: “What’s Wrong with Youth Ministry?” “Why Youth Ministry Needs to Change” and “A Paradigm Shift in Youth Ministry.”

While I agree that there needs to be some changes in the way we do youth ministry, I don’t think those changes look the same for everyone.  I don’t think Youth Ministry will drastically change if everyone starts making their own lessons, or preaches expositionally, or changes to a small-group format.  I don’t think every church can make those changes; not every youth pastor is paid so that he or she can spend hours making their sermons, not every youth group has the attention span to learn the Bible verse-by-verse, and not every youth group is big enough or has enough volunteers to have small groups.

So what I’m saying is: Youth Ministry needs to fit the culture of the church.  This seems like a no-brainer, but if it is, why are we constantly trying to mimic other the ministries of other churches?  When I was a small church youth pastor, I wanted so badly to have big programming like the larger churches in my area, and was constantly snooping to see what they were doing.  But why?  My church could not do those things.  It is no wonder that so many young people today are leaving churches—they are not getting anything that has been specifically made for them; they are getting the same generic garbage that every other church is feeding off of.

But our churches, especially more conservative churches, have problems when we say we need our ministries to fit “our culture.”  You’ll hear from them (use your best country hick voice here), “The Bible don’t change for no one, so our church don’t change for no one.”  But contextualization does not mean changing what the Bible says; contextualizing means that recognizing the meaning of the text in its context will help us re-contextualize the meaning of the text for our audience.  We have to understand the basic hermeneutic principles of historical and cultural background of the text as well as who it originally impacted.  We are not those same people, therefore we should not force the Biblical text into any cultural mold.  So our churches don’t need to exactly reflect the churches in the Bible (and they typically don’t.)  And therefore our ministries don’t need to be the replicas of the Bible, or each other’s.  One ministry is not necessarily more “Biblical” than another.  And if I tried the same youth ministry model in Canada or Africa or even the next state over, it would not work.

Furthermore, I’m going to play bad-cop and say that youth ministry is not “Biblical” because adolescence did not even exist then.  So we have already submitted to culture by having youth ministry in general.  That does not mean immediately disband all youth ministries (although that might work for your church culture).  I’m saying that youth ministry started as a ministry to fit a cultural need, so why are we not continuing to fit it to our culture?

Why are we still doing the same programming after 25 years?  I know a lot of youth pastors who are angry because students choose activities over the church (we would have never done that “in our day”), but why can’t we move activities around and accommodate students?  Why are we still going to big-name conferences that do nothing spiritual for our students, just because it’s “the place to go?” Do puppet teams fit anyone’s culture?  Why are we depressed because we are not as big, have enough money, or have as great of a beard as “First Baptist”?  We are not the same.  We don’t have the same needs.  I can’t grow facial hair.

Contextualizing is not a bad thing.  If you think your youth ministry needs some big changes, think about the culture of the community—How big is it?  How many churches are there?  What is the income level?  How is the economy doing?   And think about your church as well—Where are they spiritually?  How diverse is it in terms of race, income, gender, etc? What is the “personality” of the church?  It’s there.

Having a contextualized youth ministry means having a continuously growing awareness of your students’ church, community, learning styles, personalities, schools, and culture.  It probably won’t be easy to determine what it will look like to contextualize your youth ministry initially, but with your growing awareness, it will be the most fantastic thing you do for your ministry.

Dan Sadlier said, “Contextualization is like a sweet science that dates back to the Savior. Each page of the scripture drips with leadership who understood their context, and knew how to contextualize for the sake of God’s fame. Study your context, embrace it, and than engage it like the saints who have gone before.”

I’m now the prettiest contributor for YouthMin.Org

Contributions, testimony, women, youth ministry, youthmin.org

Recently something very cool happened to me.  I was asked to write a guest post for YouthMin.Org on women in ministry–which I should know ALL about given my estrogen levels.  And what do you know? They asked me to become a contributor.

I’m pretty stoked about this.  What does this mean for this blog?  Well, I won’t post as much youth-y stuff on it.  One of the great things about YouthMin.Org is that we are seeking to build a one-blog, one-community place for youth ministry.  This is great for a girl like me, who has like 200 people who have been named “top youth ministry blogs” but are filling up my feed with the same old stuff.  I’m sick of the self-promotion.  Why can’t we promote a community?  That’s what this being a part of the Body of Christ is about.

Another thing I love is it’s all about “everyday youth pastors.”  I’m no super-star and no matter how I try, I will never be the female Josh Griffin or Doug Fields.  I’m a young minister who is learning from others and teaching what I learn.  And from what I can tell, these contributors are humble in the same way.

So I encourage you, dear friends, to check out YouthMin.Org for everything youth ministry.  As for this blog, I will continue talking about life lessons I am learning.  And yes, they will talk about ministry.  Ministry is my life.  It will just be different (although my last year of blogging has differed than the year before and so on and so forth ;) )

Blessings,
Heather

Trying to Find a Job in Student Ministry?

church, youth ministry

It’s weird that this is my most-viewed post, but here it is:

Trying to find a job in student ministry? It can seem overwhelming trying to decide where to start. Here are some starter points:

Email some of your connections; you may find you have more than you think:
  • professors from your university or seminary
  • the head of your area convention
  • past churches you have worked for, preached at, or been in any kind of connection with
  • youth pastors in other churches
Here are some organizations that help connect you to the right church.
Denomination Websites:
Here are search engines that are specifically related to finding church jobs:
Here are some “general” sites that combine most sites (like Monster, CareerBuilder, etc) into one for easy Job searches:
Look on Christian university websites:
Non-Profit Organizations
Camps

A special thanks to all of you who have been sending me sites to add to this list! Wouldn’t it just be easier if there was one place for all listings?