Archives For Faith

Leave a Legacy

September 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

For better or for worse, we are all currently building a legacy. When we move on to whatever comes next in our life journey, the next generation of leaders will inherit the foundations that have been laid in our youth ministries as well as everything we’ve left unfinished. If we truly believe that the ministries we are honored to serve with are bigger than ourselves, we must be emphatic about serving our ministries in a way that blesses future leaders.

3 areas of a lasting legacy:

Sustainability: A legacy of sustainability is built while we live out the difference between serving others and serving with others. Serving with others is more than delegating tasks. When we serve with others we share the mission and vision of the ministry and trust those we serve with to lead while giving them room to fail. Leaving a legacy of sustainability means we’re working toward this: our volunteers, parents, and students could care for each other and stay connected in a meaningful way, could run every area of the youth ministry, and could serve with the next leader if we were to leave our position.

Resources: More Than DodgeballThe Indispensable Youth Pastor

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Wrecked by a Stranger

September 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

(Written for the Broomfield United Methodist Blog originally posted on April 29th, 2016)

She loved me within seconds. I’d never met this stranger before and I had no reason to believe she’d have more to say to me than a simple hello. But she seemed delighted in me. Her eyes looked straight into my heart. Then she held my face and said my name with the voice of an angel, “Theresa, a beautiful name and a beautiful person. Bless you.” The compassion and pure joy in her voice made time stand still. With one sentence and my face cupped in her hands, I felt like I had always known her.

I’d love to reveal that this angel of a woman was a famous celebrity but she wasn’t. I was having lunch with a local pastor a few days ago to introduce her to the work of El Porvenir, the clean water non-profit I work for. As I began talking about El Porvenir she recognized an elderly couple and stopped our conversation to introduce me to them. The wife asked me what I was sharing with the Pastor, so I explained “I work for an organization called El Porvenir. We partner with rural Nicaraguan families so that the poorest communities in Nicaragua have access to safe, clean water.” With conviction in her voice she repeated everything I said back to her husband, then she wrapped her arms around me and said, “that is beautiful, you are beautiful, how wonderful, Bless you, God bless you.” We talked for total of 8 minutes, the entire time this gracious lady was encouraging me and blessing me.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS ENCOUNTER THAT HAS WRECKED ME?

This stranger was so delighted in me that I didn’t know where I was. If she hadn’t been so genuine it would have been awkward but it wasn’t. Most the time, when I meet people, if they seem too interested in me I get kind of creeped out. But the loving soul of this stranger has convicted me. The truth is I can’t say I often take the opportunity to delight in people, especially people I’ve never met before.

When I meet people it usually goes down like this…

1. “Hey nice to meet you”, polite hand shake, then small talk “jeesh this weather is crazy right”, we go our separate way within a few minutes of being introduced with no expectation of ever having to talk to one another again. Phew, so glad that wasn’t awkward.

2. A friend introduces me to someone for the first time. While they talk I study new person’s vibe. Does new person seem friendly, are they funny, what are they about, what do they do, etc.? So many questions, so little time.

3. I meet someone new and we hit it off. Conversation is flowing easily, in fact, I’ve wanted to meet this person and I’m happy we’ve finally been introduced. We say we would love to hang out sometime but then we never get around to it.

4. Stranger says hi to me, I say hi back, we both nod and walk away.

Wait On The Lord

September 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

(This post was written for the Broomfield United Methodist Blog and originally posted on Friday, Sept 9th)

I hate waiting! I am NOT good at it. I’m good at some things. I can tie my shoes like nobody’s business. I’ve had that down for a while. And after years of practice, I’ve finally nailed my husband’s family recipe for authentic Italian gravy and meatballs. But please don’t ask me to wait. I’m so bad at waiting.

The light turns green and the car in front of me is obviously texting and not interested in driving. I can’t even deal. Yes, I will honk my horn at you! Green light, Go! Why aren’t we driving? When I’m shopping I always use self-check-out. I quit waiting in line at the store years ago. Is waiting something I’m working on? Honestly, no. Not most of the time. Not even half of the time. But is it something I recognize I’m not good at and can’t improve on my own? That would be a yes.

A truth that keeps presenting itself to me is this: sometimes we have to wait. And most the time waiting brings strength, courage, humility, and a deeper and more mature love for others. When we struggle with real life issues, things that are more important than whether we make a light or not, we have to wait. And it’s hard.
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If you’ve clocked in over 24 hours in the church van this summer, I salute you. You are a road warrior. You deserve all the payoff that is sure to come with the investment of time you’ve given to your students. It’s true, road trips bring people together and teach us things about our students we’ve never discovered during youth group. You’re surprised Jeremy isn’t as shy as you thought he was after all. You’re encourage by Samantha, who stepped up and showed her leadership skills. You’re taken back by tough guy Sean, who showed everybody his spiritually sensitive side.

When all the road trips are over, remember what made this summer unforgettable!

roadtrip

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Have you ever worked with a student who just couldn’t stand you? I have. You know the deal – the rolling eyes, snarky comments, being completely ignored, blatant efforts to be disruptive, and the heaps of sarcasm. Having a hater is totally awesome. Ok, not true. No one likes to be hated and it’s not awesome at all. We want all of our students to love us, but the reality is, they don’t. Sometimes they hate us.

In most cases, haters hate for reasons beyond our control. It’s important not to take it as a personal attack. We do well to keep things in perspective.

Why all the hate?
You’ve replaced their former youth pastor.
You represent authority
You’ve embarrassed them
Their parents make them attend youth group
They fear getting close to adults because of abandonment issues
Other various insecurities and fears

Here are few things I’ve tried to remember and practice that have turned some of my haters around. Continue Reading…

superhero-300x212If you’re a youth pastor, you might have the same reputation I used to have. Awesome with teens but lacking in organizational skills. Great at communicating the gospel in an exciting way but weak in communication with other church staff. Known for the ability to get 100 kids across the border and back for a missions trip but unable to return an email. Sound familiar? Our reputations have earned us the best seat under the bus because that’s where people like to throw us. My favorite was when I got thrown under the bus for balloons that had floated to the gym ceiling. I had nothing to with those balloons, but because of my youth pastor reputation, under the bus I went without a chance in the world to defend myself. Balloons!

I’m not too proud to admit that I did a lot in the past to contribute to my own “youth pastor” reputation. But taking the blame for everything under the sun, being stereotyped as less than professional, and not being respected by co-workers was not the most encouraging way to approach ministry day in and day out. That’s why I went on a mission to ruin my youth pastor reputation. I didn’t earn my rep overnight, and I didn’t change it overnight, but I did commit to making ongoing positive changes. To really ruin my reputation I had to step out of victim mode and into servant mode. I needed to be more aware of how my role and ministry impacted my teammates. I also needed to gain new found trust from my ministry partners and supervisors.

Below are 5 reputation killers I discovered on my mission to ruin mine.

5 Big Reputation Killers

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What’s an Isopod Crustacean? Remember the little Roly Polies you rolled around in your palm as a kid? These Roly Polies crawled up our arms fascinating us with their millions of tiny legs. This morning as I was walking my dog, an Isopod caught my attention. I stopped to pick it up, and as it rolled around my hand I found myself flying back in time, a time when a tiny creature with millions of legs could fascinate me for hours. The adult me, has little time to stop for anything. It seems the business of the time we live in pushes fascination to the sideline.

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The journey to inclusion is the road less traveled. It’s a road I didn’t even see until I had my own wrestling match with God. I’d been traveling a safer road of ministry. This safe road led me to teens who were like me, where I challenged students and didn’t allow them to challenge me. This was a road with no room for detours or curves. When I realized the road of exclusion I was on was a dead end, it broke me. All along I thought God led me to this safe road and that on it I would experience successful youth ministry. But the heart of God was leading me to a different road, the road of inclusion. See the safe road I was traveling before avoided dangerous students, neglected hurting students, and was afraid of students who didn’t match the Christian profile.

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The government of Mali gave French president François Hollande a camel for helping them repel Islamist rebels. The president was not able to transport the camel home, so he entrusted its care to a local family until he could make arrangements to bring the gift home. The Malian government was embarrassed to discover that the family entrusted with the camel’s care later ate it! Upon the discovery of the eaten gift, the Malian government promised the French president a bigger and better camel hoping to redeem an awkward situation. I’m serious.

I heard coverage of this story on the radio yesterday after dropping my son off at school. I couldn’t help but think this isn’t the first time someone entrusted another to care for a gift only to have that trust broken (or, in this case, eaten)!

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I’m about to Jesus Juke, but stay with me…

Everyday teenagers take the gift of love and give their heart to someone, only to have their heart returned to them in pieces.

Everyday teenagers take the gift of friendship and dive head first into relationships, only to be pushed out by the same group of friends that once invited them in.

Everyday teenagers take the gift of honesty and share things about themselves, only to have trust shattered into a million pieces. Instead of support and acceptance, they receive disappointment and rejection.

We all know teenagers who have entrusted people with these gifts. Like president François, they’ve discovered that trust is easily broken.

When a series of broken trust inflicts hurt and confusion on the teens we know, we must encourage them not to lose trust and hope in God.

+Allow God to love through you as a reminder that God can be trusted with their heart, their friendships, and their faith.

+Demonstrate God’s unfailing love and restore their hope in the church by facilitating healthy and inclusive community. God can use you to restore a broken heart.

When gifts are stolen, God graciously restores what was lost. In Christ all things are made new. Hurting teens are seeking restoration. May they find restoration through the body of Christ.

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Jesus announced to his hometown that he was their long-awaited messiah. The people were excited and proud. That was until Jesus announced he was also messiah to the Gentiles. The Jews, having no desire to associate with Gentiles, were outraged. They took Jesus to the edge of town with the intention of throwing him over a cliff. The announcement Jesus shared was welcomed, but not if it meant associating with outsiders. The disciples lived in this tension as they urged the Jews to embrace the message of Jesus. He did not come for one, he came for all – both Jew and Gentile.

Are we living in this tension today? Does the church desire to know the Messiah while not wanting to associate with those who need him?

Maybe you’ve echoed the announcement Jesus made by extending your ministry beyond the walls of the church. When you connect your church to hurting teens, homosexuals, or the non-believer, do you feel things get a bit dramatic? Have there been attempts to throw you over a cliff?

As a youth pastor at a local church, I gathered a team of volunteers to reach out to youth in our community through basketball. We were meeting teens who had never stepped foot into a church. They were foul mouthed, competitive, and loitered in the church parking lot for hours. It was spectacularly messy!

We were thrilled, but not everyone shared our enthusiasm. One night, a church member made a bee-line for me and asked two questions I’ll never forget:

“Why are they here?”
“Are any of them even our kids?”

I’m sure this member didn’t love my response,

“They’re here because we’ve invited them to be here. And yes, they are all our kids.”

Are you confronted with tension when you invite non-believers to your campus? This is a tension we must be willing to live in and handle with grace if teens beyond the walls of the church will be reached. We must constantly go to God in prayer and keep his heart for all his children central.

What can we do when it seems our heart to reach beyond the walls of the church creates tension?

Focus on serving.
We are not called to fight God’s battles. We’re called to serve.
We must focus on serving those God loves with humility, passion, and laser focus on Jesus. Let God fight his own battles in the hearts of others.

Embrace collaboration.
By embracing collaboration we share the burden for the lost.
Many of Jesus’ accusers, after stalking Jesus and trying to trap him, walked away believers. It’s hard to witness Jesus at work without experiencing our own transformation. Invite the involvement and collaborative efforts of your accusers.

Take risks.
When I began inviting teens to join us for basketball, I knew there would be trash talk and competitiveness that could lead to fights. Calculating that risk allowed me the foresight to recruit volunteers who had experience on the court. When the competition got heated, leaders would step in and assist in the situation. They didn’t just break up fights. They prevented them from happening by modeling and teaching great sportsmanship and promoting Godly character.

Let people wrestle.
Sometimes people need to wrestle with change. This doesn’t make them the enemy. Not every Jew wanted to throw Jesus over a cliff, and not every Jew yelled, “Crucify him.” Some of them went through the process of wrestling. Those who wrestle with the truth will embrace your vision and passion to reach the lost. They just need time to process.

Share stories of transformation.
People can’t support what they can’t see. It is up to us to share the stories of transformation our teens are experiencing. Thank your community for being a part of the transformative work of God.

TAKE AWAY: Many of us have managed the expectations to grow our youth programs and the tension that exists when we associate the church with Gentiles. You are living out the good news. The good news is, Jesus came to be Messiah to both Jew and Gentile, believer and non-believer. Continue to be courageous, even when you find yourself at the edge of the cliff. God is with you.

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