3 Keys To Dynamic Youth Ministry

dynamic youth ministry

Everyone wants a dynamic youth ministry. Yet, to have that one has to be willing to go the distance, which is not always comfortable. Here are three things I feel are key to having a dynamic youth ministry.

1) Go out on a limb.

You’ve got to be wiling to try new and innovative things. As it is in the tech world, the same is true in other areas of our lives: we want the next best thing. The next best thing doesn’t come to those who wait…it comes to those who create. Shift your services by rearranging the worship setting, introduce topics with video and discussion questions to prime the pump, use more than just videos but incorporate sounds, smells and actions into the service. Do services in reverse, or in silence, outside or in a different venue altogether. Theme out your services, utilizing the current trends in culture or following up on a mainstream idea. Fruit is out on a limb and you’re only gonna get it if you’re willing to risk it.

2) Go beyond the limb.

I’ve heard it said before that as youth workers we must be willing to go so far out on a limb that there’s no turning back. Dynamic youth ministry happens when the youth actually realize that you are willing to do anything and everything to reach them…even if it doesn’t fly. Or you fail at it. Kids want to know you really care and by going for things that are not the usual fare, it helps them to know that you are in it to win them. Taking chances with youth is not easy and the kids are not always going to respond the way we would like but they will most certainly appreciate the efforts and respect you for it. When you’ve gotten the respect, you’ll get the growth. Ultimately kids don’t care how flashy it is if it doesn’t mean anything. Being willing to go beyond the limb is what will help us see lives saved in the end.

3) Maintain your edge.

In a world where everything is “Go!” “Go!” “Go!” It is essential to Slow! Slow! Slow! This sounds contradictory to the other two points but as a youth leader and even as a ministry practice, it is imperative to incorporate down times for dynamic growth. No one can go all the time. If you want dynamic growth you have to be willing to invest in a few solid leaders which takes time! Be willing to spend some time teaching them how to lead and equipping them with how to do it.  Dynamic ministry happens when we maintain our edges by reading, praying and building relationships together. Edge-living Christians must be sharp and stay in tune with their own hearts and souls and relationships with God which cannot happen without periods of silence and retreat. Schedule downtime, plan a silent retreat, and map out your direction. As a trailblazer for dynamic youth ministry, you’ve got to maintain your edge and the best way to do this is to seek God’s direction by faith.

Crafting A Legacy: Becoming A Great Camp Staff Member

I was recently invited to share at Teen Valley Ranch Christian Camp and encourage the staff during their training time. As a long time “staffer” at TVR, I pulled some thoughts together and challenged them in taking advantage of this awesome and powerful moment in their campers lives. I had them think of people in their own lives who have made significant impressions and marks on their lives and told them that now they had a chance to do the same thing for countless others this summer. As we talked about “Legacy”, I offered them a paradigm shift.

Many think of a legacy as something we leave behind. But what if legacy was about what we gave to the future; the people that we invest in for the future. It’s not about what we leave behind; it’s the people we propel into the future! The old english word for legacy has it’s roots in mission terminology. The idea was that a group of people would be “left behind” to create the future. A team would leave a legacy behind to shape the future.

Here are more of my notes from that session. It will follow the acrostic: S.T.A.F.F.

Seek and serve.

Great staffers seek out kids. It’s your job to go after them. God was a seeker in Genesis 3 and we must model His initiative. Find out what your campers like to do and do it! Serve them well. Luke 19:10, Matthew 20:28. Staffers are not “saviors”. Acts 4:12 If you seek them out, serve them well, you will lead them to the Savior.

Take time seriously.

Great staffers understand teachable moments and make the most of the time afforded at camp. You have at most maybe 5 days to 100 hours to make an indelible impact. Psalm 90:12 Take time with the Lord everyday. Take time with your campers: At least 2 times during the week. Use time off wisely. Rest so you can give your best. The Lord and the campers deserve your best!

Attention to needs.

Great staffers pay attention to needs of their campers. Every kid is different and has a unique need. Find out from youth leaders what kids home life is like. “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s in the details that people know you care. Do the things as a staff member that need to be done. Your job is whatever needs to be done. It’s not someone else’s job to take care of trash if it’s overflowing…it’s your job. John 13.

Focus.

Great staffers are focused on the right things. Focus on Christ. Endure the campers you have. Christ endured the cross, you can surely endure that camper! Hebrews 12:1-2. Focus on the important and significant things in these kids lives. Focus on their future not their behavior now. Ask good questions. Don’t get distracted by other staff. Focus on the finish line. “You can rest at the end”.

Faithful.

Great staffers are simply faithful people. Be faithful in the task and opportunity God has given you. Don’t get caught up in comparisons and musings on why God is doing this or that. Simply obey the Lord and leave the fruitfulness up to Him. “If you are faithful, God will make you fruitful.” At the end of our lives, God will not say: “Well done good and ‘fruitful’ servant. He will say: “well done good and faithful”. Be faithful to the end. Matthew 25

George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear Ministries and serves as student pastor at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA. He served at Teen Valley Ranch for 7 years full-time and two summers in college.

Just Add Some Jesus

Just add some Jesus!

In our society,  if it takes more than 1 second for a webpage to load we get angry. We are far too spoiled! We want quick and instant results. This mindset has infiltrated the church and followers of Christ by storm. We think that if we just “add a dash of Jesus” we will get everything we ever wanted or desired.  If that doesn’t happen we feel like God doesn’t love us or that we are being cheated because we deserve the “good life.”

Wow! This is really where many of us are. We want instant results from following Jesus and we want God to do everything we dictate in prayer. We expect our churches to explode with growth because of the latest gadgets and technology, because the sermons are entertaining and catchy or our plan has been proven by other mega-churches to produce spiritual fruit. Whatever happened to loving Jesus, following Him and allowing Him to grow His Church? Whatever happened to simply working hard and praying hard? Whatever happened to loving God and loving people? Where are those things in our agendas, church planting movements and training seminars? Churches may be filled (and even filled to overflowing) but I would submit that many of the people filling our churches are still empty!

We have boiled following Jesus down to a science; a 6-week course in living like Christ. People buy into it and they buy the materials and then everyone’s happy, right? That’s all we really want right…shiny happy people?

  “Adding” Jesus may actually diminish your church growth!

Jesus wanted disciples not people who were “event” driven. Jesus wanted people to understand the cost of following Him.  At the peak of His popularity Jesus isolated Himself with a polarizing declaration that He was the Bread of Life and no one could come to God but through Him. These people had come to Jesus because they had eaten some great bread and had a wonderful experience but they were not ready to follow Him into the hardship of discipleship. Many of them left Him that day.

Peter, one of the 12 that remained with Jesus, said:

68 “Lord, who will we go to? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that You are the Holy One of God!” John 6:68-69

Peter exacts 2 things in this statement: we believe and we know.

Examine what you do and you will know what you believe.

As much as we are all about Jesus we are all about “church growth” at the same time. Sure our motives are somewhat right but let’s be honest; we all love to feel good about adding to our numbers. It becomes a pride thing. Don’t get me wrong! I am all for  people coming into God’s Kingdom and loving Jesus. However, there is an old saying I would like to remind us of:

“Whatever you catch them with is what you have to keep them with.”

If we become about entertainment, glitz and “church-biz”, then we have to do a “show” every weekend. Is this what we are to do, put on a show? I understand the delicate balance that is required in being professional and creating an atmosphere of worship. Yet, I find that at times I have to fight back the drive to compete for people’s attention, to have our ministry be “desirable” for others and to make it “cool” to attend. Is this what Jesus would have done? I get it that we are dealing with people who have short attention spans and who have so much competing for their affection and thoughts but is this what we are supposed to do? Are we fighting for attention and not fighting for souls? I wonder even for myself how much different the results would be if we didn’t do all the flashy stuff? What would it be like if we didn’t use technology all the time? What would it be like if we spent as much time praying as planning and preparing the “show”?

Examine Who you know and let that transform how you live.

Peter and the disciples were faced with a compelling group of people walking away from Jesus, yet they decided to stay for this one reason: “You have the words of life!” People may not come in droves to our churches for the word of life but it’s the only thing that will keep people close to Jesus. If we truly believe that Jesus has the words of life, why don’t we think preaching and living it out would be enough? Why is it that we feel like it has to be in a pretty little package, presented in Media Shout or Pro Presenter? Again, it’s not that I am against technology, but we often get too focused on the wrapping and show!

I don’t know why God sent His Son wrapped in the flesh of a man other than to demonstrate that it wasn’t about the flashes of thunder, the voice from the sky, or the incredible acts of God! Surely God uses all of those things! However, Jesus came as a man, with no show, no fancy home, no fabulous ride, and no super platform from which to speak and somehow managed to change the course of humanity! Jesus, along with His disciples, proved that it’s about Who we know and allowing that to transform our lives.

We do a disservice to the people who seek Christ when all we do is gather together and enjoy a well-thought out service. We can easily misguide people into thinking that it’s all about enjoyment and entertainment. We end up selling a bag of chips that seems completely full and yet half is air.  We need to make sure that we give people Jesus – All of Him! May we  not get caught up in our wonderful worlds of technology and ignore the fact that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit must draw people to Himself.

Peter and the others made a decision to stay with Jesus not because they didn’t know what the world had to offer, not because Jesus promised them a good and easy life. They didn’t stay with Him because of all the cool miracles.

They stayed with Him because they knew Him! They knew His heart. They knew His love. They knew His life!

I believe people will join your church and the Kingdom of God if they know our hearts for Jesus. If they sense we really care about them. If they really deep down see our relationship with Christ shaping and forming our lives, they will want to follow Jesus too! We can’t just add “some” Jesus. Jesus has to be everything!

20And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

21The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

22Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

John 12:20-22

 

 

George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as student minister at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA

The Art Of Signing

There’s no doubt in my mind that I should not be where I am doing what I’m doing. I don’t have any deaf relatives or friends. I don’t have a background in Sign Language or speech pathology. Honestly, I really kind of stumbled into this whole sign language thing. I learned about signing in college from a friend whose mom was deaf. She started a sign choir called Vision through Intervarsity. I learned 3 songs and then dropped out of the group. The following semester I took a sign class and began to put together songs on my own. Little did I know that one sign class and the encouragement of friends would change my life so drastically and dramatically!

Since then, God has seen fit to take me into many different and diverse places because of it. Had it not been for this use of Sign Language, I would not have much of the ministry  I currently have with students or adults. Isn’t it crazy that God would do that? Not really. In fact, it seems just like God to do such a thing! He has taken someone like me who majored in English, minored in psychology and intended to be a band director at one point and allowed me to do something completely different and yet entirely fulfilling.

Sometimes it’s easy to try and plan out our life and take all the steps to seeing that plan fulfilled and not realize that God may have something totally different in mind. It’s not that we shouldn’t have a plan. However we must be willing to surrender the plan to the Master. That’s a Master Plan! Anything other than that will leave us empty, longing, and wasting. God’s intention is to use us to equip the Body and build the Kingdom.

I know that you may feel like geometry or government or whatever may never be useful. But that’s not the case. God will use anything we give back to Him. Don’t underestimate what God can do with what you know. You don’t know what He knows and has for the future.

For some reason, I took French in high school and college, while everyone else around me was taking Spanish. Even though I never thought I’d use it, I have! But not in places where I would have thought.  I had to use French in Vietnam and The Republlic of Benin. You just never know what God is going to do with what you know. And just to let you know, it was vitally important that I knew the French at that time! I still need to learn Spanish since we have a ministry in El Salvador, which doesn’t make sense to me either. How can I have a Spanish deaf ministry with so little Sign Language and no Spanish in my resume? Simply God.

So, what do you have to offer? What thing seems insignificant to you that you feel like you’ll never use? Why not write a list of all those things and offer them to God and see what He does with it over the next month. He may just make it the most significant thing in your life yet! He’s an artist with things like that!

6 Qualities of a Ministry Disciple

There are many people who feel like they are cut out for ministry. Through the years I have had several interns and students who have considered ministry as an option. Here are a few things from those experiences and from Jesus’ own life that I feel are musts to consider for people who desire to pursue full-time work in ministry.

1) Personal relationship with Christ. This may seem like a “given” but it’s really not. There are many people in ministry who have no real, vibrant, growing personal relationship with Christ. As people flock to “ministry” it’s often because they have a desire to help others and in doing so to feel good about themselves making a difference. Ministry however is administering the gospel to people which can only be done when one has been so transformed by the gospel him/herself.

Since I have been involved in various ways preparing people for ministry this is an area I have learned to watch carefully. When people are coming to me for mentoring or ministry, I have learned to look and watch for their own personal habits and time with the Lord.  As John Maxwell’s book so aptly titled conveys, “Talent is not enough.”

2)Servanthood. What is their mindset coming into the ministry? Is it to tell people what to do or to serve people around them. This can be determined fairly quickly. Is the person seeking “ministry” seeking to really serve in any capacity or just the way they “want” too. People in leadership and certainly those in ministry have to accept the perspective of serving as their greatest calling. Someone once said “God’s greatest gifts are on the bottom and only those who stoop may get them.” We have many students and people seeking ministry who simply want the glamourous life of someone “listening” to them and following their words or ways of teaching. I believe it was Jesus who said if a man wanted to be His disciple, he had to deny himself daily, take up his cross and follow him. This is anathema to many who are in ministry simply trying to start a following or movement. Jesus said plainly that he came to serve others and someone who cannot serve in many differing ways and have a willingness to do whatever it takes is really not fit to be in the ministry.

3)Kingdom Minded. Sadly many in Christian leadership and service do not share Jesus notion that we are one body, one church and one Kingdom, where He is King. Many find it difficult to work together with others who are a little different and have unique styles or even a different belief system. Christ has called us to serve anyone and everyone. He has called us to love everyone, not just those who are “like” us. We have to  remind people going into ministry that the work of the Lord is His work. It’s what’s important to the King, not our own agenda, church building etc. that matters. What is of utmost importance is what matters in the scope of eternity. What is vital to our success is seeking what Jesus wants and how he wants us to live, work, serve and love together. People who cannot envision serving and working with people not like themselves are not fit for the ministry of God.

4)Adaptability. Jesus was more than flexible with His father’s will and design, going to people where they were. He adapted his conversation and his ways with the needs of those around him. I have found that far too many in Christian service can and only desire to minister to others in one way…their way. It’s important when talking to those who would consider ministry to look at just how flexible and adaptable people are to change. Ministry is all about change…constant change from the God who never changes! Yet so many in the ministry cannot bring themselves to change or be changed and this is not a quality anyone wants on a ministry team.

5)Initiative. Anyone who doesn’t have this quality needs to stay home! Leaders don’t wait. Leaders act! From the beginning God moved and sought out people. He took the first step and still does. People who seek to be in ministry and never step forward need to simply stay home. Yes, ministry is a place for servants but we need servant leaders! We need people who will step up and step out. We don’t need more pew potatoes, people who are content to listen to another good sermon, chow down on the free food and then not do a thing the rest of the week! Disciples are doers! No way around it. Watch your would be leaders for the ones who actually step up, step in and do something without being told. Look for the ones who have a mind to move and serve and work. You won’t go wrong with those!

6)Called. There are far too many people in ministry who have not been called to ministry! How do I know this? Look at the results of how many quit! Called people don’t quit. Called people persevere, serve long and hard hours and get up the next day and do it again! There are too many “leaders” who avoid the problems, don’t deal with conflict, and become people pleasers because they are not called. They are “voted in”. When one is called, nothing is going to deter that man or woman…nothing! Many would be leaders and disciples end up living out a job description and not their calling. They end up with a list of “dos” and “don’ts” and become encumbered by the fear of man. Calling in a person’s life frees them to live out God’s desires and pleasure. Watch your disciples and see who is operating from a sense of calling as opposed to a sense of duty and obligation.

Over the course of time I have come across people who simply are doing what they are doing because they have nothing “better” to do. They fill a void or space and end up causing more damage and problems than it’s worth. Invite people who are serious about God and know His call on their lives into ministry. Anyone who is willing to lay down his life can be a disciple according to Jesus. Have you laid down yours? The ministry needs more and more people who are willing to lay down their lives and follow Jesus instead of trying to get people to follow them. Joseph Stowell said “Leadership is a temporary assignment. Followership is a lifelong calling.” The best leaders are the ones who are superb followers! Seek out those people who want to be great  followers of Jesus and they will be great ministry leaders!

George Lockhart