9 comments Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'm not one to do things the same two weeks in a row, but there has been a more or less standard format to Youth the past few months. It has been pretty successful but I feel like I have a great hang out that 50+ teens enjoy coming to on a regular basis without any real change for their lives. I believe a large part of that is that they aren't interested in change. I can't do anything but pray for that, but another big part is that they are largely ignorant.

They don't know what Jesus is all about. I have done my best to teach them, but the format isn't really conducive to learning. We have a lot of hang out time and fun things that I plan with a short sermon that I run in a 3 week series. I really like the overall format but I have run into a few big problems.

First, I get yelled at by a group of adults on a regular basis. They are not happy with the kids I have coming into you. I'll admit they are a challenge but I couldn't be happier with them. I can say that today because I love them and they haven't driven my mad in a couple of weeks. Tonight I'll wish they were well behaved like some of the youth at other churches, but in a couple days I will thank God for sending the ones I've prayed for. I'm going out on a limb right now and asking God to send more of the teens that Jesus would spend most of His time with and give me more opportunities to go to them.

Second, we have overlapping ministries where girls and boys who are eligible to attend youth are busy on the regular youth night in another program so they must choose between one program and another. I don't want to make people choose because I think that there are people that are much better served by the other ministries. On the other hand I think there are students that really need to be in the Youth. If there don't have to choose then they have the best of both worlds available to them.

Third, there is nothing to do in this town on the weekend that doesn't lead directly to poor choices. Seriously, the options end up in kids going from one party to the next, getting drunk/stoned and then having sex. It's a pretty big deal and the single complaint that I've heard form teens is that they have nothing to do.

Finally, we don't have any real discipleship happening the way things are going on Wednesday nights. I do my best to teach them but we need something more specific so I'm working to that end by making Saturday the fun night that will hopefully give a safe, fun environment for teens to go to instead of the other things they would normally be involved with. This will free up Wednesday for a more strategic discipleship program.

Anyone else tried something like this? It is a huge move and I've been building to it all summer with movie nights, but the kickoff in a few weeks will mark an absolute change in the program so any advice on making the switch would be much appreciated as well as lots of prayer for a smooth transition.

2 comments Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The end of summer is at hand and the school year is right around the corner. This summer was very busy, but lots of fun. I am going to miss it. I have applied to be a substitute teacher and I am on a couple of new boards plus a new business I am a partner in. I have a fall kickoff coming up and I am making some major changes to how things are going. The plan is to make Saturday nights look more like what Wednesday looks like now and to make Wednesday more discipleship oriented.

Things are really moving right along and it is easy to get overwhelmed by everything there is to do. I think everyone can feel that way, not just ministers. There are three important things I have learned.

First, take the time to organize. The more I have going on in my life the more I need to organize my life. If I miss out on organizing my week then I feel stressed just a day or two into the week and nothing ever seems to get done. I find that I have to plan my schedule out starting a year at a time so major events don't kill me. Then I like to look at each upcoming month and plan that the last week of the month prior. A big part of that involves looking ahead for things I should be planning in the coming months. Each Monday I like to plan out my week in more detail so I don't forget anything. Finally each day I briefly look through what is suppose to happen during that day. If things don't happen I have to put it down for the following week or in some free time I left open for that sort of thing. Stressing because I run out of time isn't going to give me another second. Seems like Jesus said something about that.

Second, I make sure to include God time in my schedule. In fact as I plan out my week it is important for me to prioritize everything on my calendar. God, family, youth items that must be done this week, other church items that must be done this week, and then whatever is most important after that. It is a very important order because otherwise my agenda gets full of all the wrong things.

Finally, I make sure to plan fun. Of course fun includes a great many things in my life, like family and youth stuff, but other fun things have to get on the agenda. If you don't have fun then you won't like your life and no matter how organized you are there will be a great big desire to stay in bed all day and get nothing done. That attitude will make you miserable, but if you reward yourself with fun then you will work hard to get things done and have your fun. I do at least.

How do you deal with a million things that must get done NOW?

4 comments Monday, August 17, 2009

Katdish would probably come up with a really funny title for this post, and then promote it until a publisher decided to pick it up just to get some peace and quiet, but last I looked I wasn't an ADD half Japanese Texan female so …

Anyways, I wanted to drop in a quick update on S. She went home after camp and honestly I was worried for her. Camp is a great place. I think it is pretty darn close to what happened when the 3 amigos saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain top. They wanted to stay there forever but Jesus told them they had to get down to where the people were. I get that. I didn't want to leave camp and S said she didn't either. Kind of funny considering she was trying to run away just a few days before. She didn't want to go back because of her friends. She admitted she didn't feel strong enough. She was going home late evening so I figured she would crash and wake up late. I invited her to the movie night that I didn't really feel like doing. Between waking up and going to the movie night I was probably more worried about the temptations she would face.

Let me share how that went. She called pretty much all of her friends. Why? She wanted to tell them her good news. They gave her a hard time but that didn't slow her down one bit. One of her friends came over and offered her a cigarette. The fact that she said she was quitting smoking garnered more laughs than saying she was a Christian. When her friend offered her the cigarette she took it.

I can't tell you I wasn't disappointed when she told me that. It wasn't because she had given into temptation or that it was so soon. No she had a big smile on her face when she told me. If she was bothered by it I would have understood and tried to encourage her, but she seemed happy.

Of course my disappointment was short lived when she told me what she did with the cigarette. She took it into the kitchen and ran it through the garbage disposal. "I guess she won't be giving me any more cigarettes," S laughed. I laughed so hard tears were in my eyes. OK I'll admit I might have had tears in my eye despite the laughing.

Keep praying for S. Tonight and tomorrow she won't be surrounded by Christians. I don't want to smother her but I do want some Christian women and teens girls to stay after her. I've talked to some of the girls that were at camp, but they are all close friends so it is easy to forget the newbie.

8 comments Saturday, August 15, 2009

Did anyone notice I was gone? Yeah last week was camp and so I didn't have any access to the interwebs. I like saying that word because it makes me laugh to think of people saying it for real. Anyways, camp was pretty frigintastic. We did our own small camp we called "Camp Unity." We did hiking and played some fun games, but more importantly we had some great teaching, preaching, and testimonies. The day was broken up very well. We had breakfast morning devotions and session 1 before lunch. That allowed a good amount of free time for just hanging out. I think that is pretty important. After lunch we had session 2, which was usually pool time, snacks, more free time, and session 3 then dinner. Mostly the sessions were either games or hiking except session 2 which was usually spent at the pool. After dinner we had a bit more free time, chapel, and depending on everything we either had a game or went to the fireside for testimonies.

The whole experience was great but there were a couple of parts that really stood out. On Tuesday we did a geocaching hike to planned locations. We split into 3 groups and I was sent with one group. I was the backup if there were problems but the students had to do it themselves. The coordinates for the third location were over a mile away through the woods and I questioned it but the students felt pretty sure that it was right. I followed them till we reached a road and still had a third of a mile to go. Then I told them I thought the coordinates were wrong but couldn't reach anyone on the radio so I guessed at what the error was and led them back through the woods another half mile to where the next location was. We found the bag but it had been shredded by an animal. About then I started receiving calls on the radio so I gave them a hard time about losing students to a bear attack. We found the next location much more easily and then I led them all back to the camp. As we approached I was going toward a trail but the students heard voices and started running straight up the hillside through the woods. It was so funny because you would think they had been lost in the woods for days. Later that day I got to play a really good game of Ultimate Frisbee. For me this was the second best day.

The best day was Wednesday, but I have to talk about the worst day to get there. Monday was terrible. One of my students, C, is 14 but less mature than my 3 year old. I mean that literally. She did nothing but complain. She made friends with a girl, S, and made her miserable the whole time because they complained together about everything. S called her parents and they came but we convinced them to make her stay. C wanted to go home but I wouldn't let her call her mom. Instead I sent a message to her mom and she agreed to have her stay. S got so upset that she ended up running away. We found her and that night I stayed up till about 2 talking with her. One of the ladies was there the whole time. I shared my testimony with her and answered so many questions. She didn't know anything about Christianity but had lots of questions. The next day she was a different person already. She was helpful and full of questions. C complained some more and eventually her mom and step dad came for her.

On Wednesday I preached for chapel and one of the students shared her testimony at the campfire then we opened it up to others. After several of the students shared S started to speak. She told us about how her mom was a crack addict and got taken to jail when she was about 12. She was sent to live with her grandmother who lived off welfare and sold pills for extra money. She talked about how her grandmother taught her to shoplift and how she got busted for that a few times and abut using drugs and smoking and sex. She told us about when she tried to kill herself after her mom got out of jail and how she was released from the hospital without any complications. Then she talked about going to live with her dad who wasn't any better than her mom or grandma but then her dad started going to church. She had never been and when her dad started going he would occasionally make her go but she never listened at all till Sunday when someone said something about the camp. When she heard that she felt like she had to go and told her dad. Next thing you know she was here but feeling like it was a bad idea. She said she was glad that we found her and answered all her questions but that she wasn't ready yet and didn't know if she could ever be ready. She said, "so I guess I'm not a Christian and so I don't even know if this is a testimony but this is where I'm at."

After that the youth pastor from her church went to talk with her and she was with one of the ladies from her church (the same one that stayed up with her so late). Then I went over and talked with her. Long story short I ended up leading her through the sinner prayer. From the first word she began sobbing and I was so overwhelmed I barely made it through. It was one of the most genuine conversions I have ever seen. God did a serious change in S that week. She is still asking a million questions and I've told her to never stop asking. There is so much she doesn't know but she is picking up so fast. At lunch on Friday we were asking for someone to bless the meal and I asked if S would and it was one of the best prayers I've heard. Not some big fancy thing but sincere and amazingly deep for a 2 day old Christian of her age. Thursday I explained baptism to her and she wanted to get baptized right away. I talked with her pastor and youth pastor and they said a service was being planned that her dad and step mom were going to get baptized during. S asked if I could baptize her and I was trying to graciously step down when her pastor invited me to come be a part of their service. I am so honored for the way God used me in this.

I could go on and on but I will stop here. Please pray for S as she is going back to the life she left behind. All of her then friends need to know who she met at camp but they will work to pulling her back into the life she is now dead to. I can't tell you all of the excitement and worry I am feeling for her so please pray.

6 comments Friday, August 7, 2009

Wow, I didn't realize that the guest post would be up over at Stuff Christians Like. I have been a real slouch about getting my regular posts going here for the summer. Actually that is a great tie in for what I wrote over at SCL.

Basically a lot of people think that being a pastor is a one or two day job. Not even full days when you think about it either. People that know me wouldn't dare ask "so what do you do when it isn't Sunday or Wednesday?" Well they wouldn't ask that with the idea that I don't have a million things n my plate. I do get the question quite a bit though so here is a very brief list of the things I do.

  • Prepare Sermons
  • Preach Sermons
  • Maintain Sermon Audio collection including editing the audio and duplicating CDs
  • Meet with and counsel teens
  • Work with UNITEsmc a coalition of Youth ministries
  • Supervise the youth outreach team
  • Supervise the Youth worship band
  • Work with Community Family Life Ministries to start the Family Life Center
  • Various graphic projects for the church
  • Various maintenance projects for the church
  • What feels like a million meetings

I'm serious, I feel like I have a million meetings. I hate them but they keep getting put on my agenda.

Anyways, the truth is that I put in 50-60 hours if I am being good. What I mean is that I can easily put in way more, but I try not to because I am trying not to burn out. In the summer it is much more intense because students are out of school. I meet with them much more often and have to do more events and such. If I'm not careful my wife starts getting mad because I'm doing closer to 70 hours and still taking work home with me.

All the pastors I know are crazy busy and despite m constant prayers on this we haven't been given a secret pastor's only day of the week. There are things that can help though.

From the pastor's end I just want to say the biggest thing I can do is get more organized. I am planning my year out in advanced. That helped a lot over last year where things kept creeping up on me. I also like to use Monday morning to clean my office and plan my week. When I have meetings crop up Monday morning my week is crap after that because I didn't clean my office and plan my week. By the afternoon there is just too much going on and it starts feeling out of control. I know I need to stop and organize but that is much harder when I'm in the middle of it. Finally it is so important that I delegate. I learned that I tend to see a problem and then assume the responsibility for that and try to fix it. More and more things kept getting added to my plate until it was much too full. When I ask someone to take care of it then I can know it is getting done and that I can finish other things that need doing.

From the "not a pastor end" there are so many great things you can do. First understand that just because you are not a pastor does not mean you are not a minister. You do the work of the church regardless of title. After that, pray for your pastor often. Pray that they would get everything done, that they would be organized, that they will feel refreshed, and that they will share the burden. It is so easy for us to want to keep the burden because we want to make sure it is all done, but you can only keep so many plates spinning before it all comes crashing down. Finally, step up and help out. You are a minister so get to it.

5 comments Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I have been a bit overwhelmed the past few weeks. There is so much going on with the summer and everything and it is exponentially worse with a bunch of other things that are happening in the church and my life. In the middle of that God chooses to teach my some amazing lessons about forgiveness. A couple weeks ago I preached a sermon on forgiveness. It was youth night and I used the parable of the unmerciful servant. I need to get caught up on the backlog of CDs so I can upload it.

I have been trying to get internet down in my youth building for sometime now and recently purchased a wireless adapter for the computer down there. I setup a wireless router in a more accessible location and made a couple of parabolic range extenders. With all that in place I had a pretty good signal but was having some trouble getting the router to tie into the existing network. I did get it working once and did some updates on the computer before I lost my connection.

On Sunday I tried getting online during drama practice to find a song but it didn't work so I had to run to my office and get the song. Sometime after that and Tuesday afternoon my wireless adapter grew a pair of legs. I have limited the keys to the building and so my drama students and the worship band were the only ones in the building. I hate stealing and I hate lying. I don't have a budget to speak of so pretty much everything that wasn't covered by fundraisers I have paid for out of my pocket. It is a pretty large chunk of change and much of it has been for the drama team and the worship band. This offended me in a very profound way and I told them as much.

I still hope that the person that took it returns it. I personally think it is one of two people who were in the sound booth (where the computer is) on Sunday. Means, motive and opportunity being what they are makes them the most likely culprits.

The drama team is working super hard to get a human video ready for tonight and the student leader has been overwhelmed by her life lately. Last night the girls had a sleep over at her house and she ended up skipping out with one of her friends at some point in the evening.

When they got there for practice everyone was beyond tired and at maximum meltdown levels. My student leader wouldn't even look at me. I talked with one of my students about some things she was going through and later found out that the other girls led her to Christ last night. I honestly wanted to have a party right then and there. I mean fatted calf bbq and loud music kinda party.

Anyways, with the exhaustion and meltdowns I decided practice was over so they could get some rest. My student leader seemed mad at me so I pulled her aside and asked. She responded "who told you?" Next she seemed to realize I didn't say what she though and clammed up. I finally got it out of her that she got stoned and pretty much the entire drama team saw. She didn't want to tell me but I sat her down and let her pour it all out.

The whole time my heart broke for her. My heart broke not because of what she did but because of how much she was beating herself up. She kept say "I'm sorry" over and over. When she was done I had her look at me and I told her I forgive her.

I think that is powerful. So often people say they are sorry and we just say, "no big" or something like that. We need to stop brushing apologies off and honestly forgive one another.

Confession is powerful but grace and forgiveness is more powerful.

Maybe I should have made her pay for her transgression. She is a leader and those she should be leading saw her in that failure, but I think they needed to see grace more than anything else right then.

After a bit I brought her up before everyone else. She had already told them she was sorry but she felt like they all hated her. In her heart she would receive forgiveness, but we all learned something amazing today I think. I let her say she was sorry again and they collectively said, "There is nothing to forgive" or something to that effect. I stopped them right there and explained that forgiveness is very important and that they were wronged. Just brushing it off is not forgiveness. I told them that the only way to forgive her is to say "yes you failed me but I accept your apology and forgive you."

Maybe I'm too literal on this, but I think we need to stop pretending that offenses didn't happen. We need to take it for what it is and then apply grace that says, "you did wrong by me and I'm not going to make you pay me back, instead I will cancel the debt you owe me."

Anyways, we had a great talk about these things after and I believe that I learned as much if not more. As angry as I was with this group for wronging me, and as painful as that was it didn't compare to how my heart broke when one of my girls sat sobbing about failing me and everyone else.

I wonder if that isn't how God sees us. We hurt Him over and over but when we sit there sobbing over our failure He wants nothing more than to pick us up out of the mud and make us smile again.