what I wish I knew in college

Disclaimer: this post is specifically targeting college students who believe their life calling is to serve the local church.

 

Jesus is why I do what I do. He saved me, then called me into this thing called ‘ministry.’ I’ve been out of college for more than 6 years now. In my training to be an effective minister I was taught how to study the Bible, preach the Bible,  parse the greek language, etc. I also learned theology, history, and all about the apostle Paul. Early on in ministry I realized I would struggle in areas of ministry that no class directly addressed. From day one, I was the computer guy at our church because I was under 40 years of age. I was also the new sound guy, the website designer, video editor, camera man,  the chief graphic designer for our brochures, tracts, bulletins, etc. Within one year I found myself leading worship on stage with a guitar I’d only been playing for 9 monthsI had no experience with any of those things before ministry. I could tell you Paul’s life story, tell you about seraphim and cherubim, but I had little practical training for ministry. I knew how to preach and teach, but I wasn’t the head pastor, so I needed more skills to serve our church plant. Let me make clear that I do appreciate the knowledge and doctrine I learned in college. I understand that theology and right doctrine trump practicality all day. I’m not saying we should toss theology classes. However in most private and public universities more practical, hands on training is becoming the norm. I believe the same should be true in training for ministry. I did two summer internships in California that changed my life. However, even an internship has its limitations. I understand that colleges are limited in how much they can prepare an individual for life and ministry. That being said, here are a five things I’d recommend every student consider before graduating.

 

  1. If at all possible, play a musical instrument that can lead worship (not a Bass Clarinet). 
  2. Learn how to run and properly mix sound. It’s an invaluable skill today.
  3. Get a copy of Photoshop, Illustrator, or some kind of design software. Learn how to use it for ministry (printing, web design, etc.)
  4. Leverage technology. Today email, social media, and the internet offer the church new avenues to reach people. You will have to take the lead in all these areas.
  5. Be flexible. Understand that out of the gate, you may not be doing what you thought. You may have to learn some skills you thought weren’t part of ministry. I’m only 6 years out and I’ve learned so much about ministry, but a lot of ministry is  behind the scenes. Be willing to take care of whatever needs to be done.

 

Let me finish by encouraging you to stick with it. Ministry is awesome and rewarding, but it can have it’s moments too. I’ve had a pretty easy lot in ministry over all. The same may or may not be true for you. This post is meant to encourage you to add to your arsenal of tools and abilities with which to serve Jesus. 

 

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Outreach Ideas for small churches

Last year we had 300 first time visitors at our church. I think that’s a lot of visitors for a church running 100. I’d love to tell you we kept them all, but we didn’t. Often we get asked what we do to attract visitors. We’ve had over 1,200 visitors in 5 years. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are some simple things we do.

Festivals.

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If there is a community gathering, festival, event, etc, we are there. We rent a booth and give away peanuts and church information. it’s a simple way to get out into the community and meet people. Most cities have festivals with booths available. We invest about $1,000 in the two festivals we participate in every year. We have people attending our church right now that we met at these festivals.

Postcards

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When we launched we mailed 10,000 postcards. About 60+ people came from the mailing alone. We tried it again on our 1 year anniversary. The results were like 10-15. What happened? We had peaked in that 10,000 postcard market. We learned a valuable lesson 3 years later when we mailed 10,000 postcards advertising our community day. Lesson= give them a deadline or date to be there, and give them something they want (free food and carnival). About 100-150 visitors showed up to our community day. About 20-30 came to church the following Sunday. This leads to our third outreach tool…

Cookouts

time to eat!

Where there is free food and games, there’s a crowd. This past summer we had our VBS. 17- 20 kids showed up each night. On Friday we pushed a big cookout. We had food for 75 and ran out. Count on it, if there’s a cook out, people come and invite their friends.

The most important aspect of outreach events is planning. The more time we have to push an event like a cookout, VBS, or a big Sunday etc increases the likelihood of it being a success. Getting the information into community calendars around town or online or on the radio with K-Love requires you to know the dates up to 60 days in advance. Plan out your year around 3-4 big events/services. This will give you and your people time to get it ready and invite people.

Questions teenagers ask (part 1)

ImageRecently we started asking our teens to text, IM, and email us questions about the Bible, faith, and life. On the first Sunday of the month we address the questions we received the month before. I wanted to share with you what teenagers are asking, because I’m sure these questions are being asked by teenagers everywhere. Here are some questions and a short excerpt of how I answered them.

1. I know hate is wrong, but how do I stop hating someone who is always looking to hurt me?

This one is hard to answer, because the answer is simple, but doing it is hard. We all know Jesus said forgive 70 times 7, but doing it is tough. I encouraged our kids to realize that this individual is probably hurting on the inside. If we can take compassion on those hurting us it helps us realize what they are doing (though it seems personal) is really their way of reacting to the hurt they have from someone else. Also we know Jesus said hate is a sin just like murder. We can’t allow someone else to lure us into willful hatred and sin by their (albeit immature) behavior.

2. What do you do when you feel like giving up?

First I explained that as teenagers, often their emotions haven’t found balance yet. They will have super high highs and super low lows. I explain that as you age your emotions mature and you can handle more emotionally challenging situations. However, the problem is todays teenagers are facing harder situations more often than generations past. Many of todays teens have been through divorce of their parents, addiction (to drugs, alcohol, porn, etc) and abuse (physical, mental, sexual, by peers, etc.)

I took them to 1 Kings 19:4-16. We talked about Elijah and how depressed he was. He was so depressed he wanted to die. When I was 15 I was placed on some medication for severe acne (I would show you a pic, but i burned them all). This medication is now known to cause depression and suicidal thoughts in teens. I remember at 15 wanting a clear face so bad I’d die for it. The mix of medication and hatred for my physical appearance was depressing, I never attempted suicide, but it was the longest year of my life. Now it seems comical getting upset over pimples, but to a teenager it was life and death. Elijah had to realize he wasn’t done yet. God had big plans for him. The same is true for all of us. We can’t give up, we aren’t finished, and He’s not finished with us yet.

3. Are more people headed to heaven or hell?      

This question is on the minds of many young teenagers who realize how big the world is, and how little the church world they were raised in is. We looked at Matthew 7:13 and, sadly, we realize the way is broad which leads to destruction and many people go the wrong way, but we can make a difference and shine the light. If we shine like a city on a hill we can lead many to the truth and salvation. Still, the answer seems discouraging, but Jesus himself said it.

I hope these questions help us understand a few simple truths. 1. Teens ahve questions we don’t address often enough. 2. Teens don’t always know what we assume everyone knows about the Bible. 3. Teens want to know how to live for God…don’t just tell them, SHOW them.

Grow your church quick: just another get rich quick scheme

We see them everyday. Signs, ads, commercials for stuff that is too good to be true. The majority of scams and schemes out there tell you they can make you an over night success. Many people believe these infomercials, emails, and websites, because they desire so badly to get rich quick. Others usually refer to these people ignorant, foolish, simple-minded, etc. Here are a few verses dealing with obtaining wealth.

Proverbs 23:4
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.

Proverbs 28:19-20
He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 14:15
The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.

Now back to my title. What does this have to do with church? I believe the great majority of church leaders and pastors are falling for a spiritual version of the get rich quick scheme: grow you church quick. We watch videos about huge mega churches building new campuses and begin to desire to see our ministry do the same. We start reading about what other churches have done, and attempt to mimic their “success.” Millions of dollars are spent every year on book, conferences, resources, etc to show us how to grow our churches quickly. Don’t misunderstand me here, I am all for books, conferences and bettering ourselves and our ministries, but I am afraid many are walking away convinced success, growth, increase, can be built up in a year. Am i saying God can’t grow your church? No. Am I saying God doesn’t want to increase the kingdom? No. I am saying if we aren’t careful we’ll get so caught up in the “stuff” that goes along with growth, we’ll start chasing growth, buildings, success, and everything else except the main thing: growing the kingdom. Here’s my point: when a person starts trusting a scam, they start making poor decisions. When we as leaders start trusting in programs, ideas, processes instead of the power of the Holy Spirit, we will start making unwise decisions.

What is the goal? To grow the Kingdom? Let’s ask a tough question. For the kingdom to grow does your church have to have a 5 million dollar sanctuary? Or could your church send 100 missionaries and 5 million dollars around the world and do more for the kingdom? Kingdom mindedness takes the emphasis, glory, pride, possessions, away from us.

The sobering truth is this: anything worthwhile, takes a while. Apple, Microsoft, GE, Toyota, and Walmart didn’t become huge companies in one year, it took real hard work over a long period of time (sometimes generations). The hard truth is: impact takes time. People who want to get rich quick are always changing their minds. One day they want to start a business, the next they want to invest in a penny stock. They don’t stay focused on one thing long enough for it to work out for them. Many churches are acting the same way. One year the push is Upward sports, until it gets tough to find workers and growth didn’t happen as quickly as they’d hoped. The next year their main push is starting a new ministry (a new banner and cool name is all you need right?). The following year they quit that and start a TV ministry, but as that gets expensive and again nothing happens immediately, so they bail on it too. Ministry shouldn’t be a multiple personality disorder. It only shows our weakness for desiring quick easy success. There is nothing wrong with trying new things, but our generation is so addicted to instant gratification that we simply aren’t willing to wait on God to move and grow His church. We feel we must DO something NOW.  Our mission should remain unchanged as we use new methods over the long haul to grow the kingdom of God. Besides Jesus said He would build His church, so why do we exhaust ourselves attempting to do what only He can do?

the current crisis in youth ministry

When I was in high school I attended youth group activities quite often. I was warned that at age 18 many teenagers leave church. I watched at age 16 though as many of my friends became disinterested in church. The exodus used to occur at 18-20 years of age, but now I am seeing signs that kids are leaving church at age 15 and 16. The church has lost its ability to connect with teenagers and even kids today. What has changed? Is the church doomed? I believe there are many answers to these questions. I also believe that we don’t want to hear some of the real reasons kids are leaving the church. I have three questions I believe we need to answer honestly.

Why is the church trying to compete with sports and activities?

 Over and over I see programs at churches aimed at kids who want to play sports. The thought is “if you’re gonna play sports, why not do it at our church?” Many kids programs at churches rely heavily on using games and sports to keep kids involved. Churches are investing lots of man hours, money, and space in being the hip new place to play sports. When did the role of the church transform from teaching kids about God, to training kids to be athletes with a hint of spirituality. When did we stop going into the sports world as coaches making a difference, and start sectioning off our own little christian leagues with few if any lost people?  When did Sunday morning become this big game we play with kids? We have themed rooms, professional stages, bright fancy areas for games, etc. When God sees us turning kids ministry into a carnival, do we really think He is pleased? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for top notch, first rate kids programs at church- if discipleship is the goal. With all the effort we have put into making kids and youth ministry in general more fun and exciting, why haven’t we seen a decrease in the numbers of young people exiting our churches. We aren’t just another fun place. We aren’t just another youth sports league. We are the church. Our job is to connect people with Christ, and teach them about His Word. Sadly not everyone will stick it out, but does this give us the right to fun it up to keep the numbers up? We are sacrificing the minds of real dedicated Christian kids to entertain the kids who just want to play soccer, dodge ball, or duck, duck goose. We’ve added so much stuff and fluff; the message is getting lost in the mix. We have to remember who and what we are, and what we are called to do.

Why is it that the role of a youth pastor is usually entrusted to someone who either has no children or is currently raising their children?

 Wouldn’t it make more sense to entrust this position to someone with a little bit of experience with raising kids. Imagine a youth pastor helping parents raise teenagers, and explaining how to deal with a difficult 13 year old girl using the illustration of how he dealt with his daughter when she was 13. Instead I am 25 with no kids, trying to help people with decades more experience than me. Sadly by the time most guys have the experience, they’ve moved on into Associate or Head Pastor Positions. I admire guys who are 40, 50, and older who still work with teenagers. Because ultimately it’s the parents we are trying to help. Many churches have this idea that the youth or children’s pastor should be a kind of second parent to the kids at the church. The truth is my job as a youth pastor is to equip the parents to train their kids to be Godly young Christians. I can’t raise a child or teenager in 4-5 hours a week. If a child is going to make it, there has to be a solid home life backing up what is being taught at church. The same principle is true in schooling. A teacher can’t raise good kids, even with the 45 hours a week they have with the children. Kids are capable of being taught any and everything. So the question is what are Mom and Dad teaching them at home? Next what are they being taught at school? And finally what are they being taught at church? I decide what they are taught at church. I can only recommend Mom and Dad what to teach them at home. I have no say in what they learn at school. How do we as youth Pastors overcome this challenge? I believe we need to involve Mom and Dad as much as possible. Tell them what you see hear by and about their kids. Have regular meetings with parents and kids to explain the goals of raising good Christian kids. Ultimately we have to reach Mom and Dad and help them be the best parents they can be with God’s help. It won’t be easy. It’s not the 50’s anymore. Most homes have two parents working at least two full time jobs. Kids have more activities than to fill their schedule than ever before. Parents are busier than they have ever been. We need to lift these parents up in prayer and let them know we are rooting for them.
Are we willing to deal with the silent sins in our churches?


There are some sins you hear people talk about all the time. However, there is one sin I rarely, probably never hear mentioned. Pornography is one of those silent sins. We preach against lying, stealing, adultery, murder, drugs, drunkenness, etc. However, over 50% of Christian men struggle with pornography. Close to 51% of Pastors say internet Porn is a real temptation, while 37% say it is a current struggle. Right at 28% of those admitting to sexual addiction are women. Two-thirds of divorces cite the internet as a cause. Let those numbers set in for a minute. We preach and teach on things some are dealing with while the high majority of sin goes unquestioned. Now consider that people don’t just wake up addicted to porn. There is a first time for everything. The adult film industry says that 20-30% of its audience is children. The average age for exposure to porn for the first time is 11. Over 70% of teen girls and 66% of teen boys admit to posting sexually suggestive content. Over 70% of kids get a cell phone within 18 months of their 9th birthday. In a poll of 300 girls, 30% of them aged 9-15 admit to sexting.
The internet is available not just at home anymore, but on your cell phone. A child can view porn on their ipod with an internet connection. I know of a boy whose mom had no internet, and no cell phone. However, he used his ipod’s wi-fi to pick up his neighbors router, and would view porn for hours every night. We have to realize the stakes are higher than ever. We can’t be there 24/7 to watch over them. Therefore, we have to teach them the dangers of porn. The talk used to be sitting your kid down and explaining sex. I’m afraid today we need to start talking earlier about something else-porn. Your child will have plenty of opportunities to view it. Let them know early how dangerous it is.
The real reason we don’t deal with it is simple- because many of us are involved with it. We get nervous talking about it, because we are guilty of it. We have to get ourselves clean, and prepare our kids for the most abundant source of defeat they will ever face. We talk to our kids at church regularly about the dangers of phones, internet, texting etc. It’s real, we need to be real about it too.
So back to the original question, “Why are kids leaving the church?” If teens struggle with a sin (like porn) they feel they can’t overcome, and no one will talk about it, why would they stay. They see the hypocrisy in a church that claims to help people, but won’t help them with the sin that is crippling them. Porn is eating our kids for lunch, and we sit idly by ignoring it. It’s not going away. In fact it gets more and more powerful as technology advances. We are experiencing the shift to 3D, so is porn! HD is crystal clear but the next wave is 2k and 3k, cameras with 3x the resolution of an HDTV and 10X the resolution of old TVs. Porn will be there, enhancing the experience they have to offer through social media, internet, phones, TV, Ipads, etc. The enemy has found a silver bullet for ruining kids, adults, marriages, homes etc. He’s winnig because we aren’t even fighting. We have to stand up for our people. Church, deal with the sin in your pews! Your people will thank you.

Parents, check out Splink


Parents, check out Splink. It’s a great resource for today’s parents. Every week you will receive short little ideas and how to’s for raising Godly kids. It’s a great way to use everyday life to teach kids about God. Click the link and sign up today!

It’s here!

Our baptistery is here! Our portable baptistery arrived at our doorstep. It is a great fit for our current facility. At 30 inches wide we can roll it in for a service and out afterward. We still have to stain it, but it looks awesome. It is super easy to roll, and fills up fairly quickly. We are planning on having our first baptisms at our new building this weekend. Can’t wait to show you some pics of it being used.