Helping Students Live on Mission

What we live for will determine the things we will want to accomplish and achieve in this life. For many teenagers, unfortunately, the here and now is all that matters. Life is all about who notices me and what I can get out if it. Many teenagers put their faith in things that won’t last, things that aren’t eternal. The only remedy for this is an encounter with the Living God.

With this being said, as a pastor to students and families, I have also personally seen students that are absolutely on fire for the cause of Christ. They want to know Jesus and have depth in their faith. They ask tough questions and desire real answers. They seek to make Jesus famous in the little things and the big things. They are genuine Jesus followers and want their family, friends, circle of influence, and the world to know it.

Whether we have teenagers living in our home or we work with teenagers in some capacity, we must capitalize on these God-glorfying students as they desire to live out their faith. Their passion has a purpose and its to make the name of Jesus famous. In order to do this I believe there are four things that we need to constantly be reminding the next generation of Christ followers.

Missional living must be internal before it can be external. If students are going to make an eternal impact it must first make a personal impact on them. We speak and live from our passions not our obligations. When Jesus has transforms the heart, actions will soon follow. Matthew 6:21 reminds us that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Missional living is counter-cultural. Following Jesus and making His name famous is difficult to say the least in this day and age. Believing in absolute truth is seen as being narrow minded and arrogant. Again, this world lives completely for the here and now. Living for Jesus and eternal impact is all about being a part of something that is bigger than your own self. When Jesus looked at a group of common men and said “Follow me” (Matthew 4:18-22) it was an invitation to come and sacrifice the ordinary for extraordinary. This came with sacrifice and trails but also with  great eternal reward.

Missional living is not a program or an event, it is a way of life. Missional living should not have a “show up at this time and we will do this” approach to it. Yes, mission trips, service projects, outreach efforts, and the like are all very much a part of living on mission, but it is not the end all of it. Missional living is a lifestyle that is lived. It should come naturally and not forced. The local church equips the body of Christ, including the next generation, to know what missional living is, how to live on mission, and then model it in what we do on a week to week basis. Students learn best when they see the desired outcome not just when they are told it.

Missional living means reaching your neighbor and the nations. Some when they hear the term “missions” have the whole “jungle in Africa” image come to mind. This is very much a part of missions but there is so much more to it. We must reach our neighbors and the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For many all we would have to do is walk across the street and we would be able to accomplish both. We must help students remember that living on mission includes the conversations with the person who has the locker next to them at school, the way they display their faith on the field and in the locker room, the things they text to their friends, the jokes they laugh at, and so on. Every single believer in Jesus Christ is a missionary.

We have the greatest story to tell, the story of Jesus Christ. The next generation has the incredible opportunity to make an eternal impact. All believers do. We must come together and live on mission for this cause of Christ!

Acts 1:8 (HCSB), “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Small Groups are the Win

People tend to remember people way more than they will ever remember presentations. If you were to ask me the things I remember the most in my short 30 year life, it would be the people who have loved me, cared for me, and taught me life lessons. The people who still do that to this day. This is the very reason biblical, healthy, small groups are so important in the life of the local church. Simply put, the win is in building healthy small groups that will reproduce. Why? Most the time this is the place people are known, come to Jesus, and are discipled. Can you experience life change in pews? Sure you can. Are you more likely to experience life change in a community of people who are loving and praying along side you? Absolutely.

No matter the size of the church people attend or are a member at, we still have the desire to feel connected. Even those who are unsure about where their relationship with God is and have no desire to be a part of a local church, have a desire to be connected. Typically this is centered around common interest, beliefs, or hobbies.

With this in mind, allow me to give you three reasons I believe small groups are the win within the context of the local church. On the front end we must remember that small groups must be within the context of the local church. Why is this so important? Because Jesus established the local church for a reason.

Biblical small groups are built on relationships; you are known, loved, and ministered too. The key here is COMMUNITY. Living in the digital age that we currently live in, it “seems” as if everyone is “connected” in some shape or form. This is really not the case. Just because people seem as if they are really busy texting all the time or updating a social media status, does not mean they have a group of people they are doing life with. God created us to be relational beings that speak with one another and live in community. It is the very reason God says in the second chapter of the Bible, “It is not good for the man to be alone…” (Genesis 2:18 HCSB). Think about it this way… when life throws you an excellent surprise (job promotion, your child excels in an area and is recognized, etc.) who are you going to tell first? Your closest friends and family. The people you do life with. When life throws you a curve ball and an unexpected hurt comes along, who are you going to pick up the phone and call? Your closest friends and family. The people you do life with. We can fight it all day long, put in under the label of “I’m an introvert,” but at the end of the day we thrive on relationships.

Biblical small groups are centered on the reading, studying, and applying of God’s Word. If the Word of God is not the center piece of the small group, then it is not a biblical small group. It is a social club. While it is very appropriate for small groups to fellowship with one another, we must center them on the Word of God. It is impossible to grow as a believer in Jesus Christ without the Word of God. Furthermore, it is impossible to know who Jesus is, His mission, and His purpose a part from the Word of God. The key here is not only Bible intake but also to know what to do with what you have read. This is where being in a small group is vital. People doing life together and growing in their faith together. I also believe that curriculum can greatly aid in this process. Curriculum helps guide conversation, keeps groups on track, and measures growth in the life of a believer. While some weeks it is appropriate to only discuss what is going on in life, we must remember that growth doesn’t typically occur in randomness. Start off your weekly time together discussing life, praying for and over one another, and then dive into God’s Word with the heart of, “…Speak, for Your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10 HCSB)

Biblical small groups create an atmosphere of accountability. Accountability is scary for most. This is the case because we have to do three things that are not easy. Ask hard questions, be truthful where we are at, and practice humility. However, accountability is where it is at. It is a must in terms of growth and leadership. If we are not honest with the people we are doing life with then we are cheating ourselves and really missing the point all together. The book of Proverbs speaks to this when it says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 HCSB)  Remember the people who are keeping you accountable genuinely care for you or they would not be asking you hard questions. You may be the one asking the hard questions but you must also be sure you are the one answering questions as well.

Hopefully from this blog post you come to a deeper understanding of the importance of being in biblical small group within the context of the local church. This week, I received a phone call from someone asking me if I knew of a solid church in a certain city. Why were they asking? They knew a person that was really having a hard time and needed a small group of people to be the church to them. 

May we live in community together and live on mission together for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.

 

 

Kid’s Ministry and Sharing the Gospel

The season is here… church worship spaces are being decorated, markers are being counted and placed in zip lock bags, copiers are preparing leader packets, and volunteers are being recruited. Next week our church is having our annual Vacation Bible School. A HUGE week in the life of local church children’s ministry. What a blessing to be able to minister to kids and their families in a fun and exciting way! Literally hours and hours of training and preparation will go into 5 days of bible lessons, crafts, games and rec, missions emphasizes, snacks, large group worship, and so on. Why? Because kids need Jesus. We all do. Kids need to know that the God we sing about in “big church” truly wants them to know how much cares for them. How much He loves them.

The most important part of kid’s ministry, especially during events like VBS and camps, is sharing the Gospel in an age-appropriate, God-glorifying way.

Below I have listed three “common questions” that are often heard when dealing with kids who are asking question about Jesus, salvation, baptism, etc. I then offer a potential better way of asking these questions. It’s important to note here I’m learning and growing just like ministry leaders all over are. The key here is not perfection but obedience.

1. Common Question: Am I ready to share the Gospel with children? At times it can seem overwhelming to share your faith with a child. Sure, you know it’s a blessing, but maybe you are used to and more comfortable communicating with adults rather than kids or students. Don’t allow fear to drive you in this. You may never feel ready but, the LORD wants to use you.

Better Question: Am I willing to be used by God and equipped to share the Gospel with children? The key is to have a willing spirit and be willing to be equipped and trained. Sharing your faith with a child is very different from sharing with an adult. How you say, what you say, matters. We must remember that sharing our faith and leading a child to the LORD is not impossible but rather an incredible honor.

2. Common Question: Is this child old enough to understand the Gospel? I understand the heart behind this question. I really do. As ministry leaders and parents we all want kids to understand what they are doing when they ask Jesus to be LORD and Savior. I believe at times though we get to caught up on the actual number and age before we hear a child out. Parents will often say, “They just are too young and not ready yet.” While there is usually wise discernment here, let’s not get caught up on, “They are just 7… they can’t know what they are doing.”

Better Question: Can this child explain to me who Jesus is, what He did on the cross, and why it matters? If a child can do this at the age of 7 or 8, then awesome. Have a Gospel conversation with them and help lead them in making the greatest decision they can ever make. For some kids they won’t be able to do this until they are 12 or even older. The age isn’t the most important thing here because every kid is different. The most important part is discerning if the child fully understands the Gospel. When we rush this, it leads to kids not really knowing what they are doing and then when they turn 16 saying, “I just did that because I thought I was supposed to.” It is so important that we take the time to have several conversations with kids to insure they are ready. I have found the best way to do this is to have a conversation with both the child and parents in the room.

3. Common Question: How can I simplify the Gospel so this child will understand it? In my opinion using words like “simplify” and “watered-down” are not really communicating what we are trying to do. It is so crucial we give kids the FULL picture of the Gospel and not just a snapshot because we feel they can’t grasp it.

Better Question: How can I clearly explain the life changing message of Jesus Christ to this child? Don’t just simply simplify it, be very clear. Be age appropriate? Absolutely. Move slower instead of faster to insure they are tracking with you. Ask a lot of questions. Do a lot of listening. Pray like crazy before and after. When we clearly explain the Gospel and pray the Holy Spirit moves in hearts and lives, great things can happen.

Sharing the life-changing message of Jesus Christ is an honor and blessing not matter who you are sharing it with. May kid’s ministries all the world be intentional and proactive in this!

Teaching Our Kids to Pray

Prayer, one of the most powerful aspects of the Christian life. It is an amazing thought that we have the opportunity to communicate with the God of the universe. The key is communication. Effective communication involves both talking and listening.

Almost a year ago, I received a new title. Dad. Let me tell you how awesome it is. Sure it has its ups and downs but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Recently, I also moved into a new role in church ministry. I’m now a Next Generation Pastor. This means I still work with students and families but I now also oversee the Preschool and Children’s Ministries. I LOVE family ministry. Sharing Jesus with mom and dad, their 8-year-old, and 14-year-old, excites me. It wakes me up and keeps me up.

This month our pastor has been doing a series on prayer. Prayer is one of those things I have always tried to teach on, model, and be a major part of any ministry I have been blessed to lead. With that being said, in my own life, I have experienced seasons in which frankly, it has been hard. Not so much because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, but rather that I didn’t make it a priority. I got busy doing a lot of “Christian” things and I allowed my prayer life to slip.

So how do we teach our kids to pray? As a new dad and a pastor of almost seven years here are my thoughts…

1. We must first model it. In the Gospels, the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray (Luke 11). He not only gave them a model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), He modeled it Himself (Mark 1:35, John 17). As parents and ministry leaders we have to do more than use the phrase, “I’m praying for you.” I have had many people send me text messages saying, “I’m praying for you today.” I have had very few of those people actually pray with me. Don’t hear me wrong, telling people you are praying for them is great. Send them that text message every time, it is definitely worth it. After you send that text message, take the next step, follow up. Maybe pray with them the following Sunday. The more times we do things like this, the more our kids will realize prayer is more than something we do before a meal.

2. We must teach the “why” before the “how” or “what.” There is great power in understanding why we do the things we do. Teaching our kids why we pray is no different. Have conversations like, “What does it mean to pray to God?” “What or who are somethings we should be praying for as a family?” “Son/Daughter, how can I be praying for you?” “Will you pray with me about this?”  Once families have a deeper understanding of the “why” it will make the “how” and the “what” much more significant. Why do we pray? We pray because we are Biblically commanded to but also because Jesus desires to have a relationship with us. Think about your best friend(s). I bet you don’t go very long without communicating with them either over the phone, email, or social media. Why do you do this? Because we value what they have to say. You desire to know and grow in your relationship with them.

3. We must make prayer more than a “wish list.” For many Christ followers, prayer becomes nothing more than a “what I can get out of it” outlet. “God bless me, take care of this need, and oh yes, thank you for this day.” Read Jesus’ prayers to the Father. Take a look at John 17.

John 17:1 (HCSB), “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You…”

This prayer was not about Jesus. It was about the glory of the Father. We must teach our kids that it is okay to ask God to bless us and take care of needs. However, our prayers and our Christmas gift list should not sound very similar.

There are two things I try to pray for often. First, are the lost people I’m in direct contact with. I pray that I would be a faithful example of the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they so desperately need. Second, is the nations. This includes the people groups where the spreading of the Gospel is limited and missionaries are in difficult settings.

Practical Advice for Praying as a Family Unit:

1. Prayer before a meal. Traditionally, if Christian influenced homes don’t do much praying at all they tend to bless their meals, even if it’s every once in a while. Next time you sit down as a family for a meal, go to the table 10 minutes early before you start eating your meal. Spend that 10 minutes praying as a family unit. Pray for each other.

2. Prayer for a missionary and/or church planter and their family. Place a picture of a missionary/church planter and their family somewhere visible in your home. Encourage each family member to pray for the missionary/church planter and their family once a week. Having a visual will be a great reminder. Pray for their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

3. Prayer for your circle of influence. Have each family member write down two people in their circle of influence (friends, teachers, pastors, coaches, etc.) that they can lift up in prayer. Allow each family member to voice these prayers aloud.

4. Parents, pray over your children. Mom and dads, don’t miss this. When your kids go to sleep, spend time with your spouse praying for your kids. Pray that they would fall in love with Jesus and love Him more than anything else. Pray that the decisions they make in life would honor and glorify God. Pray for their future spouse.

Connecting Church and Home

When I’m thinking about and praying over families I immediately think of Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Parents of kids and teenagers, if you have never dug into this text I encourage you too; read it, highlight it, tweet it, memorize it… live it. The words found in this passage speaks to loving God first and foremost and then how we live this out with our kids in everyday life. Historically, this was written to the Israelites. God wanted them to “bear witness to the truth that God is the only true God. They were to love Him supremely and keep His Word. The commandments of the LORD were to be taught diligently to their children.”  (*Reference: Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald)

Here are some thoughts I have when reading this passage…

1. It’s ultimately a Lordship issue. (Verses 4-6)
What do you love more than anything? If we are loving the Lord with everything we are, our kids will see this. If someone were to ask our kids, “What is the most important to thing to mom and dad…” how would they respond? Even if our kids are far from Jesus, love Christ supremely and allow the Holy Spirit to work on their heart. In this passage, we see a very important reminder that it begins with our personal relationship with Jesus. Are we growing in this or is this the first thing to go in the business of life?

2. Spiritual conversations in the home should come naturally not forced. (Verse 7)
Do spiritual conversations seem “awkward” in your household? When we are taking our kids to baseball practice, a dance recital, or piano lessons, why not talk about the pastor’s sermon from the previous Sunday? The key here is to look for teachable moments. They will come “when you walk by the way.” What do we do with these moments? If the only time we pray with our kids is at meal time, we probably aren’t loving Christ first and foremost. This is much easier to type than to live but my prayer is that we, as parents, have consistent communication about faith in our homes.

3. Our outward expressions should be a direct reflection of the heart. (Verses 8-9)
Did you notice that verses 8-9 came after verses 4-7? Here is what I’m getting at… the Bible verse hanging up in your bedroom should be one of the results of loving Christ supremely. We have it out-of-order when we hang up the Bible verse because “we always have” or “because it looks nice” then we think and reflect on our relationship with Jesus. I’m not bashing hanging up Bible verses in our homes or drinking out of a coffee mug with a Bible verse on it… I just wonder if we have ever taken the time to read the entire chapter of Scripture that particular verse is found in? People, our kids, our neighbors, will know what is most important to us. They won’t have to look very long or hard to “find it.”

Again, I know these things are hard to live out at times. Life can be tough and beat us up at times. Continue in your personal pursuit of Jesus. He knows our heart and where we are most passionate. If you are a parent and are reading this, know I’m praying for you.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV), “{4} Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. {5} You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. {6} And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. {7} You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. {8} You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. {9} You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

Write it Down

Twenty-four hours would seem like a long time if you were to sit still for that entire time period. In our fast-paced, quick fix, want it now culture, twenty-four hours goes by fairly quickly for most. We always seem to not get something done in the day we were hoping to get done. Sometimes, even if we do get the project finished we were really wanting to finish that day, we half way do it and then quickly move on. I have always been a firm believer in whatever is the most important to you is what you will spend the most time invested in.

There are multiple things I use everyday of my life. If you were to ask my closest friends they would probably tell you I couldn’t go a day without my iPhone, iPad, or MacBook. With that said, there are three things that I need and especially use everyday of my life. What are they?…

My Bible. An ink pen. My journal.

A mentor friend of mine once asked me this question, “Do you keep a journal of what God is teaching you?” My immediate reaction was one of surprise mixed with a little confusion. Why would he ask this? To be honest the only time I had really written down what God had taught me was at summer youth camp when they gave me a quiet time guide for the week. The more I thought about this, the more I realized the importance of consistently practicing this discipline. For the Christ follower, it is through this you can take a look back and see where God has stretched you, grown you, and challenged you. Even in the hard times, it is awesome to look back and see how God clearly revealed Himself and worked in and through situations. Now, during my daily quiet time, I journal. Through the lenses of God’s Word, what do I write down?

1. Prayers. I write out personal prayers and people/situations I’m praying for. I also write out prayers based on the Scripture text I’m reading that particular day. If you have never written out prayers before, I strongly encourage you too… it is very powerful.

2. Life’s victories and struggles. This is a big one for me and where I’m brutally honest. I write down where I’m struggling to lead well or where I’m not fully trusting God. I write down things I’m worried about. I also write down where God has/is blessing and things are going well. When you write down life’s victories and struggles, one of the things you will you clearly see is where the flesh is at war with the Holy Spirit. It’s actually quite convicting.

3. Praises to and about God. This may sound fairly basic but it is so important to remember. I believe in different seasons of life God reveals different aspects about His character to us. Anytime you read Scripture it is always important to ask and answer this question, “What does this passage of Scripture teach me about God?” While personal application of Scripture is definitely necessary, I believe in first asking what the passage teaches us about God.

If you have never consistently kept a journal it will probably take some time to develop it as a habit, it did for me anyway. However, I strongly encourage you to write it down. Write down what God is teaching you and how He is shaping you. The key is to do this through the lens of God’s Word. If you put anything down, put down the journal not your Bible. This is and always has been where we clearly know God and His mission.

1 John 1:4 (NASB), “These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

Three Prayers for Students As They Start School

Summer is coming to a close and for families, students, teachers, and administrations all over the nation school is about to begin. This may excite some and for others this may be nerve-wracking or even frustrating. Some parents will be taking their kids to kindergarten for the very first time. For some families they will be taking their kid to the “big” middle school or high school for the first time. This also means back to routine, homework, test, and friday night football games with the marching band playing at halftime. Within the context of local church student ministry, there is huge opportunity that awaits. The opportunity to reach campuses filled with students who need to hear the Gospel. We must be diligent in equipping students to see this incredible mission field and to make Kingdom impact. We must also be committed to pray like crazy. There are three ways I consistently pray for students during the school year.

1. Prayer for Wisdom. Wisdom is not simply knowledge but yet knowing what to do with that knowledge. This starts with a fear and awe of who God is and then leads us to pursuing Him each and every day. In the book of James, Scripture teaches us that wisdom that comes from God is pure, its full of mercy and good fruits (James 3:17). The book of James also teaches us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God for it and He will give it generously (James 1:5). Pray that students would increase in intellectual and spiritual knowledge (Luke 2:52). More than that, that they would grow in Godly wisdom.

2. Prayer for Boldness. Boldness is a scary thought for students because it can often be uncomfortable. Pray that students would take Godly wisdom and discernment and be bold in sharing their faith; that they would always be thinking and praying through people to share their faith with. Gospel-centered, Jesus-loving, passionate, bold (opposite from self-righteous and annoying), students are desperately needed in classrooms, on the ball field, and walking down the hallways of our schools. Boldness is often contagious and this leads to greater impact (Acts 2:47).

3. Prayer for Faithfulness. True faithfulness is hard to find these days. Its seems as if more and more people only stay faithful to a mission when its convenient or doesn’t require much sacrifice. Pray students are faithful to what the Lord has called them to; that they would persevere when its tough (1 Corinthians 9:24), seek Godly accountability in areas they struggle in (Proverbs 27:17), and love Christ more than anything else (Matthew 22:37-38). A strong commitment to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is a must for a disciple of Jesus Christ. Pray students are faithful to the Gospel- to love it, live it, and share it.

Colossians 3:2-4 (HCSB), “{2} Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. {3} At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison, {4} so that I may reveal it as I am required to speak.”

Love or Obligation?

Why do we do the things we do? Is it because we feel like we have to do certain things? Is it because we feel like we would let someone down that we really looked up to or want to please if we didn’t? When I was in middle school I started to play the trumpet in the school band because my grandfather played the trumpet when he was a kid. I played trumpet because I wanted to, not because I had too. I played baseball from the time I could throw a baseball all the way through high school because I really like the game of baseball. My other grandfather played college baseball, all my brothers played baseball, and like most my friends, even had a favorite major league baseball player. I follow the game of baseball because I have a passion for it.

As Christ followers why do we do the things that we do? Think about the last time you went to church. Did you go because you felt like you had to or because you wanted to experience Christ with a body of believers? Do we read the Bible to get to know the nature and character of God or because we feel like we have to because that is just what Christians are supposed to do? Do we pray at meal time, around the table with our kids, because it’s what we have always done growing up or because we know God listens to the prayers of the righteous?

For years now I have wrestled with why Christians do the things that we do. At times I ask myself some of these same questions. It’s so easy to get into routines and lose the heartbeat behind the mission of it all. Jesus commanded believers to make His name famous and to make disciples of all nations. My prayer is that we obey the commands of Jesus because we love Him, not because we feel like we have too or Jesus will be mad at us. I have to admit this is much easier said than done. Life gets busy, work can be overwhelming at times, and 24 hours seems to little for all we have to do in a day. In the midst of all this is the why and how behind the what. I believe we tend to focus on the what more and God focuses on the why and how. We look more at the external and God looks more at the heart. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 (HCSB), “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

As a Christ follower, what drives us is the power of the Gospel that transforms lives. This is the difference in love and obligation. Love comes from a heart of desire and passion. Obligation comes from a heart of rules and regulations.

When we love Christ, His bride, and His mission…

1. We desire to know God more each and every day through His Word.

2. Serving others flows naturally from the heart.

3. We pray for others more than ourselves.

4. Leaders are equipped and resourced to make a difference.

 

When we have the tendency to feel “obligated”…

1. We “find” our Bibles only on Sundays.

2. We think of our own needs first.

3. For the most part, we pray selfishly.

4. We think more internally instead of externally.

 

My prayer is that we as the local church will grow in our love for Christ and His mission.

 

What Teenagers Need from a Local Church

Student ministry is an incredible world to be in. Its fun, its engaging, it keeps you young and on your toes, but most importantly you have the privilege to reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, more than ever, we are seeing a new generation that wants nothing to do with the local church. We can’t give up on them. Students and families need to be reached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It can be hard and it can be messy but, we must persevere in this.

Having this in mind, here are five things I believe teenagers need from a local church…

1. Teenagers need to know the Word of God. Whether its Sunday morning, Sunday night, a midweek environment, or small groups throughout the week, students need a specific time each week that they are taught the Word of God. It needs to be fun, engaging, and relational. It needs to be an environment that is just for them and their friends with adult leaders who will love and lead them. It needs to be an environment that a lost, disengaged, or “on the fringe” student can walk into and not be turned off by.

2. Teenagers need to see adults model authentic faith. I do not believe the main problem with the decline in student attendance at church is due to the lack of programming. I believe one of the main problems is they don’t see adults modeling the importance of faith development. When students don’t see adults who are passionate about Jesus and His kingdom, why would they be? I’m not saying student ministers and leaders are not at fault at all- sometimes I feel like we force things instead of developing things- but all in all, adults need to step up and be more passionate about Jesus.

3. Teenagers need to know they are as much the church as adults are. Kids, young adults, parents, senior adults, and anyone else for that matter need to see teenagers active in the local church! Students need to be a part of the same things adults are a part of. Students need to have opportunities to lead in areas adults lead in. That is the local church- when kids, students, and adults, come together for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of Christ.

4. Teenagers need a safe place to voice their doubts. Strategically a couple of times a year I do some form of an open Q & A with students. I allow students to put questions they are wrestling with in a box that are filtered and gone through. This is not because we are scared to answer any particular question but rather because some questions are better discussed in smaller environments. I then pull up a stool, sit down, and we talk. I’m open, honest, and frank. For years, I believe the local church has been scared to let teenagers ask questions. Their questions are raw, culture hot topics, and maybe even a little taboo, but important none the less. I LOVE what Reggie Joiner recently said at a conference… “Kids should feel safe enough to process their doubt so they can own their own faith.”

5. Teenagers need a place to engage in missions and ministry. This is so incredibly important in the spiritual growth of a teenager. I love seeing students on mission trips, running cameras for services, greeting for early and late services, reading Scripture in the service, taking up the offering, serving in other ministry areas, and so forth. The Great Commission begins with the command to “Go!” not “Sit!” May we make spreading the good news of Jesus Christ our top priority and may we make sure teenagers are involved and influential in this!

Life is a Journey

Life is a journey. In this journey we call life, there are ups and downs, mountain top experiences and valleys.  While we may never know “why” things happen the way they do, what doesn’t change is Jesus and His mission. Jesus is exactly who He said He is and we, as Christ followers, build our lives  on this foundational truth. In this journey we call life there are three things that I’m constantly reminding myself of, whether we are in a good season or a tough season.

1. God is sovereign and in complete control. No matter the circumstances, we must allow God to be God and not us. If things are going well, we can have the tendency to become prideful and think higher of ourselves than we ought too. If things are not going well we tend to get angry and play the blame game. Underneath it all, our natural sinful hearts love control. We want to know every little detail when it happens and how its going to happen. This is God’s job not mans. God is sovereign not man. God is holy, righteous, and pure, not man. Our pursuit should be one of Proverbs 3:5-6. We must trust in Him and not lean on our own understanding.

2. Find confidence and assurance in the fact you were created in the very image of God. Situations can change, life can change, and we can be left with many unanswered questions. What will never change for Christ followers is who we are in Christ. In the first chapter of the Bible (Genesis 1:27) we find a very powerful truth: we were created in the very image of God. We were created to display the image of God and reflect His glory. While your earthly circumstances may change, if you are in Christ, your ultimate perspective will never change.

3. Read the Word of God now, more than ever. In the Word of God we find absolute truth. We find out exactly who Jesus is and how He dealt with praise from man and hardships from man. We see how He talked with people, ministered to people, and helped people see Him and His mission. I love the Word of God because every time I read it, it speaks to me. When reading God’s Word you will be convicted of sin, charged with a mission that is greater than you, and you will see the deep, deep love Jesus has for you. Whatever season of life you are in, read the Word of God now, more than ever. If you have never really read the Word of God on any consistent basis, start with the book of Mark. This is the shortest account we have of the life of Jesus and this Gospel was written to show Jesus as the Son of Man, the Suffering Servant. Next, take whatever day of the week it is and read the congruent Proverb. For example if its May 16th, read Proverbs 16.

The Greatest Life Decision… The most important decision you can make in this journey we call life is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal LORD and Savior. Through His death and resurrection we can have eternal life. The Bible teaches us in Romans 10:9 (HCSB), “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  The Gospel in four short statements is God Loves – Sin Separates – Jesus Saves – We Receive. Accepting Jesus as your LORD and Savior is the greatest decision you will ever make. Allow Jesus and His message to transform you.