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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The most overlooked fundraising idea EVER

Today I was talking with some youth pastors and pastors I know about fundraising for teenagers in the church. We talked about all the things we had done that worked, and what had failed miserably. The prevailing theme became evident quickly: frustration. We talked about the time and effort poured into a huge event only to see teenagers raise $15 each. We’ve tried car washes, donuts, bake sales, yard sales, auctions, etc. We felt like if we didn’t raise over a thousand dollars (tons of work) it was a failure.
The turning point was listening to my friend Kevin explain that once he simply put the need out there to his church. He explained that kids were having trouble paying for camp, and if anyone wanted to help they could designate money to help a kid go to camp. He said the church responded generously and in 5 minutes he raised the money needed. The story Daniel told was similar. People heard the need and gave generously.
Here’s the point. Sometimes we work so hard and overlook the generosity of the church. The church is here to meet needs and help one another. Your church is probably full of adults who would love to help a kid go to camp, or pay their way to a retreat. We shouldn’t abuse their generosity, but we shouldn’t overlook the ability our people have to be a blessing.
Most people would rather donate $20 to the youth ministry need instead of buying $20 worth of junk for a fundraiser. So instead of thinking up new, exciting, money-making schemes to get funds raised, let’s try to let God’s people be a blessing from time to time.

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.