Integrating Youth Ministry Into The Church

How is the youth ministry at your church viewed?

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St Peters Youth Ministry

Quite often young ministry is considered a must but it is also seen as the baby to a lot of the other ministries within the church. Sometimes i get the feeling that as long as there is some sort of youth group happening and there are some people we can call youth leaders then the church can promote itself as looking out for the needs of young people.

This, however, doesn’t capture how youth ministry fits into the whole church. Ideally, a good youth ministry should be able to be integrated into other ministries, where it would be acceptable for young people to participate, help out, and even lead. For example, it should be quite easy for young people to not only attend youth group on a Friday night, but also feel comfortable enough to be attending a service, or a small group or even a whole church event.

Finding and working this culture of integration between ages is hard, yet, it seems to be an ideal way for maturity to occur throughout the age groups of a church.

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Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

outlive-your-lifeMax Lucado, Out Live Your Life (Nashville, USA: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 173 pages.

I like Max Lucado. I’ve now read a few books of his and always find them full of good illustrations, biblical truth, and words worth pondering. Out Live Your Life is no different.

Lucado’s latest centres around encouraging people to start thinking big and taking risks in their life. He wants his readers to be shaken out of the possible rut that they are currently in and start looking at doing things that will be of benefit to others.

What Lucado isn’t pushing his readers to do is simply join some cause and begin promoting it. He would prefer us to have a look at what the early church did and follow their example in meeting together, focussing on Jesus and serving others. From beginning to end Lucado takes the reader on a journey through the first eleven chapters of the book of Acts and brings to life some of the stories and teaching within.

The whole book is positive, which in many cases is nice to hear. It is primarily hitting the good works band-wagon of justice and helping others – this of course is not a bad thing and i think Lucado deals with this well. He doesn’t want the Christian witness within these good works to be forgotten or neglected, therefore he forces the reader to be reminded of Jesus and the cross. Rather than making this some abstract theory he grounds these two things nicely together in the sermon’s of Peter and John at the beginning of Acts.

I found the book a good read. I would say it’s a 7/10. For what i expected it to be i thought it hit the mark. I think that it has a simple yet profound message of “do something good for others”.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

7 Evernote Tips For Youth Pastors

Evernote is one of the most used apps on my phone and computer.

Here’s seven tips on why Youth Pastors should be using it.

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1. Evernote Helps A Youth Pastor Organise Events

Anything from camps to small group socials to the stock standard youth night. Evernote helps you keep organised and plan an event coming up.

Writing lists, storing information about what needs to purchased, and delegating which leader is responsible for what. All these things can be stored in various notes.

The helpful tagging option allows you to bring up all the notes about “Awesome Camp”, which can then include details about registration, budget, what to buy, and the contact details for the campsite itself. There are a number of ways to put together a particular youth event but having them all in one central place is helpful.

Once the event is done and it’s time to debrief this is where notes can be kept and help you improve the next time it comes around.

2. Evernote Helps A Youth Pastor In Designing The Youth Ministry Programme

Young people and youth leaders are full of ideas about youth events. Nearly every week there will be one person that comes up to me and says, “We should do […insert event here…] next term.”

Evernote enables you to store information about future youth ministry activities. This can include details of what it is, contact information, and the links to the websites. When coming to organise the next term’s programme this will make the process a lot easier. Pull your phone out, have a look at what’s there, think about whether it achieves what you’re after and put in on the planner. Easy.

A local roller-skating rink posts me information every now and then with their information for youth groups. All I do is take a picture of it, store it in Evernote, and boom. It’s sorted and searchable for when I need it.

3. Evernote Helps A Youth Pastor Remember A Good Game

Games + Youth Ministry = Fun times.

How many times do you find yourself, perhaps at the end of a night, where there is 15 minutes to spare and you’ve run out of games?

No Youth Pastor should be without a few games up their sleeve. They’re the bread and butter of many traditional youth groups and youth ministries. Evernote allows you to store heaps and heap and heaps of games on your phone and computer, easily accessed in seconds.

Storing games you’ve come up with yourself, finding a few gems on the net, and even taking a few notes from games some of your leaders come up, can all be stored in Evernote. Tagging them into what kind of games, i.e. Adventure, Messy, Group, Ice-Breaker and the like becomes extremely helpful too.

4. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor Remember Conversations With Young People, Parents And Leaders

Last year I held a Parent Afternoon Tea and jotted down some of the feedback given. There were a few new ideas floating around and also some encouraging things being said about the youth ministry. At the end of our time together I took a photo of the discussion notes, uploaded them to Evernote, and they became searchable using their technology. This has helped me remember what we talked about and we we could implement in the future.

After a conversation with a Youth Leader I type out some brief bullet point notes in Evernote so that I remember what was said and the action points decided upon. This helps me to know where my Youth Leaders are at with a variety of matters and also helps me in following up the next time we catch up.

This is so much more useful than some form of text file stored on the computer. Here I have them all in note form and in my hand.

5. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor Store Contact Details Of Other Youth Pastors, Young People, Leaders, And Churches

The amount of ‘networking’ events for those in Christian ministry is quite extraordinary. Every week there are multiple emails promoting different organisations, churches, and leadership events. It gets confusing and tiring.

Anyway, Evernote helps me to store the contact details of those I actually want to stay in touch with. Sometimes it might be the dreaded business card (Does anyone actually use these anymore?) , take a pic, snap, upload, sorted. Sometimes it is simply me entering the information of the person right in front of them, or even handing the phone over and asking them to enter it themselves.

Having knowledge and contact details of those in my area, those I wish to continue a working relationship with, and organisations who could be helpful for our youth ministry is handy to have. you never know when you might be of support to someone or they to you. Having their details on hand and in an easy to find place is awesome.

This could easily apply to people in the youth ministry, church, and others.

6. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor With All That Ridiculous Administration

Every job has administration, the Youth Pastor can’t avoid it either. However, Evernote provides a great solution in storing what’s important and also the not so important.

I get sent a fair few things via snail mail and these things can easily be scanned and uploaded to Evernote directly. It was only the other week where I read an article in one of the Christian papers and then took a picture of it for Evernote and future use.

But there is other stuff too. Receipts and invoices, important emails you want to keep in one place, and even those rare thank you notes you receive from people. These can all g into Evernote, be made searchable, and like that you’ve cut down on paper, reduced the need for a filing cabinet and stored them forever.

7. Evernote Helps The Youth Pastor Write Talks For Youth Ministry

Every youth ministry should have some form of talk that is Bible-based and aimed at encouraging, equipping, or evangelising youth people. I regularly do them, as do my Youth Leaders.

With Evernote I can write up that talk in plain text then take my phone with me to the front of the group and go bang. Granted, I do prefer paper for that purpose but if I was to ever lose or have my talk stolen by one of our members then I can easily retrieve it on me device.

Evernote provides heaps of editing options to helps highlight important things to say and remember for delivery. Using the search and tagging function also provides good reference for the future. For example, when speaking on the Rich Young Ruler from Luke 18:1-18 I can have my notes in Evernote and tag them, “Youth Talk”, “Jesus”, “Wealth”, “Gospel”, “Cost”, “Works” etc.

In sum, Evernote is a great app for Youth Pastors to use and enables them to be better organised, which I think produces a better Youth Pastor. It helps in ‘doing’ ministry, and we all know we need help sometimes. There are plenty of other things I’m sure we could come up with. But hey, seven is a godly number. Let’s leave it there.

Are you a youth pastor that uses Evernote? How does it help you?

The Discerning Book Buyer

I find great pleasure in looking through bookstores – call me odd, but that’s what I like to do sometimes. Other people have their hobbies and various traits, well, mine is bookstore perusing, which most likely leads to book buying.

As I walked out of my local Christian bookstore this morning it struck me that one really needs to be discerning in what they pick up. (I must admit that I went to the store b/c it had a 20% off sale and I knew I could find some bargains somewhere in there) I feel that when I walk into this said bookstore that I know where to go to find the quality Christian books – emphasis quality. To some that will seem like an oxymoron – a Christian bookstore actually selling ‘quality’ Christian books, are there such things!? Well, in fact there are but one has to be discerning in looking for them and know what ‘quality’ means.

I find myself sometimes wondering whether other people in the store are aware of what is quality or not. I don’t mean to judge, but I suppose I do. When I see someone with a book by Joel Osteen I want to talk to them about what they’re really buying. When I see someone looking at the commentary section I want to point them to the commentaries I have found most useful and which are clearly evangelical (Tip: Go to Best Commentaries to find how they rate). When I walk into the shop and see a few people looking over the latest books, the ones right at the front I want to tell them that there are better ones down the back. While people are trying to choose a bible for their grandchild I want to let them know that it’d be better for them to have an ESV over a KJV, and if they’re a teenager then don’t get them those silly “teen” bibles, get them the real thing and help them learn for themselves what the bible says about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

Having said all this I realise that it is hard. Going into an unfamiliar bookstore where there are a whole range of books that are deemed ‘Christian’ makes everything seem like its OK. I mean if the Christian bookstore has for sale “The Jesus Diet” then it must an OK book, mustn’t it?

The fact is, no.

Just like everything one reads, watches, listens to, and does, care and discernment needs to be there. My encouragement would be to talk to your pastor or a Christian friend that you know reads a bit and ask them what they recommend and what they think you should stay away from. After all, it’s a dangerous world out there in “Christian bookstore land”.

The Archer & The Arrow

I just finished reading “The Archer and the Arrow: Preaching the very words of God” by Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond. Phillip Jensen is a very well known Anglican minister in Sydney (and elsewhere) and has over 30 years experience in preaching the Bible. While i haven’t sat under his preaching (except for a youth leaders conference a couple of years back) i know a number of people who have.

This book is sort of a follow-up to The Trellis & The Vine, also produced by Matthias Media, but focuses specifically on preaching. At the start of the year, for the past two years, I have read The Trellis & The Vine as it’s a good reminder of the priorities one should have in ministry. It is certainly refreshing to read each year.

I haven’t read a preaching book for a while so The Archer & The Arrow was a good place to start, particularly coming off the back of Trellis. It was a very good book and I rated a 7/10 on my scale. The authors use the illustration of the archer (preacher) using the arrow (sermon) to pierce people’s hearts with the word of God. There are other elements to the arrow, such as the head, the length of the shaft, and also the feathers that help direct the path. It seemed to me to be a good illustration to use and they go into more detail about what these sections mean.

The book was teaching that I had heard before in a number of conferences or at college, surrounding preaching and putting a message together. I thought it was good to be reminded of these things once again and a few wise words from an experienced pastor is always a good thing. I would recommend the book to anyone who is beginning to preach or who needs to be reminded why they are doing what they are doing. The kind of preaching that is favoured, and no doubt is the only right kind of preaching in the author’s eyes, is expository sermons that go through passages and books of the Bible. So, in some sense, it was pretty much down my alley anyway.

10 Evernote Tips for Pastors

I’ve been converted to Evernote. Evernote is a note taking application that enables you to capture and organise everything. It’s available on pretty much all devices that you can think of, from phone to computer and syncs all notes up into the cloud – sounds heavenly doesn’t it!

Anyway, i began to use Evernote around 12 months ago. Within a month i had moved to a premium account which gives me much more space to upload per month, image recognition, and offline notebooks for my phone to name a few.

I have found Evernote has revolutionised the way i store and organise information that comes my way, everything from paper to verbal communication to ideas that pop in to my head. As a Youth & Young Adult Pastor i have found Evernote extremely valuable and so below i have noted 10 ways in which any Pastor would be able to use the application.

1. Create Prayer Lists

With Evernote it is simple to organise items that need prayer. Lists can be made, even with little tick boxes if you so desire, that can continue to be used for prayer. These can be lists of people within my congregation, topics or events that need prayer, and praise points that have occurred over the last couple of weeks/months.

2. Store Contact Details for People or Organisations

I find that almost every person who works within a mission, a church, or some sort of para-church organisation has a business card. Also, websites, music artists and bands as well as community contacts all have details that i need to remember. Evernote gives me a great space to keep all these details. I can simply take a photo with my phone and instantly their details are uploaded which i can access in a number of forms. It certainly saves me mucking around with business card holders and random little bits of paper on my desk

If you were really keen you could also PDF your church’s contact list/directory and store it on Evernote. It then becomes completely searchable and easily accessed wherever you are.

3. Keep Note of Personal and Pastoral Conversations

Being a Pastor requires meeting with many people during the week and talking about a variety of things. Sometimes these may be about particular pastoral issues that are important to keep in touch with, other times it may be about deciding on what’s happening in the coming months regarding some program. Either way, Evernote enables me to take note of these conversations and keep them organised so that i can look back and see what we talked about in preparation for the next catch-up.

Another way of entering this sort of information can be through the voice functionality. Through my phone i can make a verbal note that will be uploaded to Evernote which i can listen to later on. This is also relevant for a number of these tips.

4. Give Space for Creative Ministry Ideas

Through conversations with those who come to the church or perhaps while reading articles and blog posts i quite often find ministry ideas floating around my head. Rather than have heaps of little notes on paper or in different text files i simply enter them into Evernote and tag them with relevant triggers. Even though some of these ministry ideas may not be able to begin now they can be kept for future reference.

5. Write Up Sermon Notes

While the feeling of writing notes in a journal is great Evernote helps in storing all my sermon notes together. When working on a message from a particular passage i can again tag them with relevant references. While reading a commentary i can transcribe notes from it for future reference. I can keep writing and thinking without having to delete the notes later or store them in mucky files on my hard drive. They are all kept together in one note and notebook and are completely searchable using Evernote’s amazing search function. My work on main points, structures and notes from parallel passages or other resources come together in one place. I can even write the whole sermon in a note and then copy and paste it to a document later on for printing.

6. A Place for Sermon Illustrations, Quotes, Links, Blog Posts, etc.

How often do you think of a sermon illustration or see a quote that you like and have nowhere to store it? Evernote is perfect for storing these sorts of little notes, quotes and illustrations that can be used for this week’s sermon or one in the future. They can all be kept in a notebook or be tagged with the appropriate reference. When i find a great quote, read a great article or blog post or find a picture that could be useful i clip it into Evernote and then tag is with the author’s name, the topic or theme and classify it as a ‘quote’ or and ‘illustration’.

Due to my use of Google Reader i find that emailing in blog posts to Evernote an especially good feature. I also find that scanning or taking pictures of illustrations from magazines or newspapers very useful.

7. Organise Events, Programs and Services

So, Christmas is coming up and there are always heaps of ideas about what carols to have, who’s doing the readings, how the children can be involved, and what items are available for the service. If you have a particular program, event or service that is coming up Evernote helps you organise all the information into one place. This could range from what needs to be done in order for the youth group event to go ahead to what topics should be up for discussion at the next deacons meeting.

With this comes the topic of weddings and funerals. Evernote enables notes, thoughts and ideas to be put down in one place that helps in structuring the weekly gathering, a wedding ceremony or a thanksgiving service.

8. Reading Heaps Means Lots of Notes

A Pastor is generally a reader. From commentaries to theologies to dictionaries to Christian living books, Pastors are usually across a variety of books. I find that i can copy down quotes and ideas that are significant in a book and then keep that easily accessible through Evernote. I find that taking a picture or scanning a couple of pages can then be easily searched through Evernote’s OCR capabilities.

9. Clip Links and Other Electronic Information

Evernote allows easy clipping of websites. While having time to search for youth group games or find a few youth ministry websites i come across a lot of information i’d like to keep. By clipping the site and the information into Evernote i have it forever. I can always go back to the site, as it keeps the link, and also search for particular games or information in Evernote. This means Evernote becomes a solid bookmarking application as well as storage for notes.

10. Take Photos of Books, DVDs and Other Resources

I can’t afford all the resources that are available at my local Christian bookstore. Books, DVDs, CDs, music resources and more are quite expensive. However, i do come across some very good resources that i might be able to use in the future. Many times i have taken a picture of the cover of a bible study guide or a DVD series that we might go through and its immediately uploaded to Evernote.

That’s my conversion to Evernote, I’m not sure how you use it, but it’d be great to hear how it helps your ministry too. The more i think about it the more ideas on how Evernote can be integrated into ministry come to me.

If you’d like to read more about Evernote i have also written Evernote Tips for Youth Pastors

Afraid To Belong

I think you’re afraid of belonging.

Belonging to something goes against the grain of our culture. We’re meant to be individuals. We’re meant to be concerned purely with the self. We’re meant to do what we like in this day and age. Life is for our own pleasure, our own enjoyment, and our own fun. Why then would we belong to anything?

Despite our individualistic culture there is something about us that wants to belong. Look around, football clubs have members, Facebook has friends, Twitter has followers, wars have armies, politics have parties, institutions have chapters, and beer drinkers (or parma eaters) have locals. With belonging comes a sense of being part of something bigger. There is a feeling of commitment and mutual appreciation. There is a knowledge that other people are like us, they are centred on the same things we are. There is a togetherness, a mate-ship, a team bond.

This might all be well and good but there is also something within us that makes us afraid to belong. Belonging means we have to be investors, investors of time, energy, and emotion. Belonging means we are exposed, vulnerable, and out in the open. Belonging means disappointment, hurt, and heartache. Belonging isn’t easy and that’s why we’re afraid.

When the footy team never makes the eight, when the political party is stuck in opposition, when the family is in turmoil, when colleagues aren’t pulling their weight – situations like these make belonging hard. The same goes for the church, to belong to a local congregation is going to be hard. When 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people, when the offering decreases, when the rosters aren’t being filled, when the people won’t turn up, continuing to belong to a church is tough.

In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about the church being like a body. And in v14-16 he says,

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And, if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body.” that would not make it any less part of the body”.

Paul is telling us, whether we like it or not, that there is no excuse for not belonging to the body. While the church may be made up of people with a number of different gifts there is still a responsibility to belong. Not everyone is going to be the preacher or the Sunday school teacher or the offering steward but that doesn’t mean we are excused from belonging.

We like to belong to something but we don’t like to commit. We like to belong in quiet ways. After all, it’s nice to sit up the back and hear pleasant music and words wash over us for an hour. But hey, getting involved in the constitution committee, having people around for lunch, building a relationship with a teenager, helping out with crèche, playing the guitar, or (dare I say it) beginning a new ministry, well, that’s not nice – that’s messy! That actually means it’s time to get our hands dirty, invest time and money, invest emotional energy.

So, whether you’re part of the 20% that does most of the work or the person who wafts in and out of church buildings each Sunday perhaps it’s time to evaluate where you’re at. Perhaps it’s time to commit to belong, truly belong, or are you too afraid?

Lectures To My Students (p131)

“It is impossible to hear a man who crawls along at a mile an hour. One word today and one tomorrow is a kind of slow-fire which martyrs could only enjoy. Excessively rapid speaking, tearing and raving into utter rant, is quite inexcusable; it is not, and never can be powerful, except with idiots…”

by Charles Spurgeon

Holiday Reading (July 2010)

I’ve been on holiday for two weeks and during that time had some great rest and a lot of reading. The following is the list of books I read during that time. I might blog about a few of them over the coming weeks, we’ll see.

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.

Living the Resurrection by Eugene Peterson.

Desire and Deceit by Al Mohler.

Women, Authority & the Bible edited by Alvera Mickelsen.

Total Church by Tim Chester & Steve Timmis.

Shattered Icon by Bill Napier.

The Disappearance of God by Al Mohler.

Storm Warning by Billy Graham.

Storm Warning by Billy Graham

Billy Graham, Storm Warning (revised ed., Nashville, USA: Thomas Nelson), 2010.

Billy Graham is widely known as the pre-eminient evangelist of the 20th century. Throughout his 91 years he has proclaimed the gospel of Christ on every continent and to millions and millions of people. There is probably no other person in the history of Christianity that has spoken to as many people about Christ as Billy Graham – he has had an amazing ministry. From the poor to the President’s he has preached and invited a wide variety of people to call Jesus as Lord.

It is this Billy Graham that has now revised and updated his 1993 book, “Storm Warning” for the modern day reader. Using the book of Revelation Graham takes the reader through a variety of passages linking first to the gospel and then to current day situations. As the book of Revelation moves through from John’s initial calling and vision to his letter to the seven churches through to the picture of a new heavens and new earth so too Graham uses this as the outline for his book. It is well done in this respect. There is a constant reflection on the gospel in each chapter and also some personal illustrations to explain what he is talking about. In most chapters there is a connection with issues that are affecting the world today and how particular passages of scripture either speak into this situation or how the events illuminate the scripture. Topics discussed range from natural disasters to spiritual depression to fear and anxiety to terrorism to the loss of religion. They are broad topics but also illuminated by Graham and scripture.

To be honest i was bored by the time i got to the middle of the book. I think this book is important, relevant and quite often right in it’s reading of scripture and the world. However, at times i thought texts and events were stretched to fit the argument. There is a lot of proof-texting going on which just got annoying. I think Graham has a wealth of wisdom to give us, particularly the evangelicals of this world but the more personal experience stories i heard the more “samey” the book got. In some respects i could almost pick how the next chapter would turn out.

In some ways it was a book about the end times. It tries to show that the events of today are more and more evidential of the coming return of Christ. And, while this is true it just seemed a bit of a stretch in parts. I loved the basis of the book – Revelation, the Gospel, Christ but i found it lacking in keeping my interest.

2.5/5